Beautiful Nights at the Black Cliffs

The Black Cliffs beat (beat 2) is a shoreline in the northwestern part of Lake Thingvallavatn. The beat is known for its giant brown trout. The brown trout seek nourishment in the mouth of river Móakotsá which runs into the lake. Off the Black Cliffs fishermen can wade far into the lake to a lava drop-off where one can often find one of those brown giants. The bottom of the lake is diverse, going between lava, gravel and sand. Since the area is fairly shallow, one can wade rather easily around. The beat often holds large groups of brown trout, and in the right conditions, these magnificent fish can be seen dancing on the surface with their tails. As common in Lake Thingvallavatn, the evenings are the best time to catch the brown trout, although the daytime can also be productive. 

Lake Thingvallavatn

Lake Thingvallavatn is the largest lake in Iceland, located only 40 minutes from Reykjavík. Thingvellir, where the Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, was established around the year 930, is a place of historic significance. The lake lies along the North Atlantic Ridge, sitting where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates separate from each other. Thingvallavatn is 83 square kilometers (32 square miles) and is deepest at 115 meters (377 feet). The lake's catchments area is 90% underground and the water from thousands of cold springs has a constant temperature of 3-4°C the whole year round. The spring water is filtered through layers of the surrounding lava making Thingvallavatn gin-clear and easy to spot fish. Three out of the five species of freshwater fish found in Iceland live in Thingvallavatn; brown trout, Arctic char and the three-spined stickleback.

Brown trout

The giant brown trout of Thingvallavatn has evolved there in isolation since the last ice age. This legendary fish is the most coveted catch of many a fisherman, Icelandic or otherwise. Tales of battling these mighty fish are akin to fairy tales and are never forgotten by those lucky enough to play a part in them. The huge and fertile water mass of Thingvallavatn provides excellent living and growing conditions for Thingvallavatn’s brownies which are different to other brownies due to their unique habitat. These extraordinary brown trout can grow to a weight of over 30 lbs, and specimens in excess of 20 lbs are frequently caught in peak fishing times. In Thingvallavatn, you never know what the next cast will bring.

Arctic char

Thingvallavatn supports four varieties of the Arctic char making it unique in the world. The Arctic char in Thingvallavatn is a clear example of how species evolve and adapt to their surroundings, each with its own ecological niche, as these four varieties have evolved from one species in only 10,000 years. The Arctic char (bleikja in Icelandic), have adapted themselves to two main lake habitats, the main body of water and the bottom of the lake. In the main body of the lake, the food source of the Arctic char is constantly on the move and the fish themselves have little shelter from predators. The Arctic char that have evolved under these conditions are streamlined and have a long lower jaw. The fish-eating type, the piscivorous char (sílableikja in Icelandic), can grow up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) in length, while the plant-eating planktivorous char (murta in Icelandic) is a lot smaller, usually only about 20 centimeters (8 inches) in length. The lake bottom is the main habitat of the large snail-eating char and the dwarf-char. There is enough food there and also plenty of places to hide from predators. The snail-eating char can be up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) in length, while the dwarf-char stands up to its name and is usually only 10-13 centimeters (4-5 inches).

Other Beats on Lake Þingvallvatn

Black Cliffs beat 2

Villingavatnsárós beat 3A

Villingavatnsárós beat 3B

Villingavatn beat 3D(The lake)

Kaldárhöfði beat 4


Distance from Reykjavík: 37 km
Fishing season: 20 April - 15 June
Average size: 8 pounds
Number of rods: 4
Tackle: #6-8
Best flies: Streamers and nymphs
Access: 4x4
Accommodation: Several options

Photos from Black Cliffs Beat 2