Moonshine: Fly Fishing in Iceland

Moonshine: Fly Fishing in Iceland


Iceland - Moonshine Fly Rods from Black Mountain Cinema on Vimeo.


What ended as a trip of a lifetime started as a side note while speaking to my good friend, Harrison Hughes of Black Mountain Cinema. Fly Fishing Journeys had invited him to film a feature with podcast host, Rob Giannino. There was one slot available and they asked me to join and grab some content. We’d be fishing with Fish Partner, our guides and lodging for the week... I didn’t put up a fight.

In many ways, Iceland looks and feels ancient. Although 70 million years old, it’s very young in geological terms. As a country, they weren’t official until 1944, parting ways from Denmark during the war. 

Iceland Independence Day, 1944

With only 350k people in the entire country, black lava rock and sand, it looks and feels alien in person. Think Wind River range in Wyoming, in terms of some of the landscape and formations, but make the geology black and back out a lot more people. There’s really no better backdrop for film than Iceland; that is, if you want a place that looks like a different planet.

The fishing was spectacular. The kind of fishing where nobody is around, often as far as you could see. Most of the guys were there for big Browns, but I wanted to cross the beautiful Arctic Char off my list and wasn’t disappointed. 

Some of the flies we used were unique, but to be honest, I caught the majority of char on the standby Zebra Midge. We caught them every which way possible, but were most successful with nymphs. 


I think what surprised me the most was how hard these Char can fight. Pound for pound, they fight harder than a trout and reminded me of Smallie fishing. They have attitude and do not give up easily, #respect.

During our stay, we were privileged to fish water that not even Fish Partner had fully explored. They were looking for new water and the possibility of a new agreement with local farmers. Driving over an hour into the backcountry (which we were basically already in the backcountry) we got to throw at fish that had never seen a fly before. The water was very low, so we had to do a bit of trekking. I’ll never forget the small pool we found and the unbelievably beautiful Browns that were fooled. 

We all have those special fish that are burned in our minds, and this was one of them, just as dignified and wild as can be:

If you want to know what the weather is like there, it’s accurate to say that it changes fast and can be unpredictable. Growing up on a farm in SW Oklahoma, this was something I was akin to. My Grandpa used to say, “If you want to know what the weather was going to do, just wait a minute.” Iceland is like this and is advisable to come prepared with different layers and rain gear.

During our first 2 days, it blew like crazy with 30 - 50 mph gusts before turning loose. Harrison, Tim and Rob landed some fantastic browns, despite the turbulent winds for fly casting. 

What you will not find alien about Iceland is its people. Icelanders are friendly, inclusive and helpful. With English as a second language, getting A - B was never a challenge and were always on the same page as the comradery grew and the jokes flew. No one was safe.

Our main guide and one of the partners at Fish Partner is Sindri. I loved hanging with him because he fielded all the questions (probably the same 100 he gets with every new trip) and was always enthusiastic about what we were doing that day. Most importantly, he put us on fish. There are good guides, and then there are great guides. Sindri is in the league of greatness.  

If I’m with a guide, I can’t help but get them on a rod, albeit with resistance, most of the time. But if we’re dialed in, I think the day is better if we’re all just having fun. Sindri below for the win!

Christian and his partner Magda were excellent hosts at the lodge. We were well received and the food was excellent. It was also fun hearing the Atlantic Salmon stories with a group from Scotland over drinks... My people! 

Ari was another guide with the Scot group and was such a cool guy to talk to, as we shared stories and passed the time after a good meal. 

If you’re looking for a trip that is like no other, consider Iceland. The tickets aren’t as steep as you’d imagine and it’s worth stashing away your coin. If you decide to go, unsolicited, go with



From left to right: Rob Giannino of Fly Fishing Journeys, Christian and Sindri - Fish Partner, Tate Cunningham - MSR,  and Tim Cammisa of Trout and Feather

Not pictured and behind the lens is Harrison Hughes of Black Mountain Cinema. If you like our pics and videos, chances are it was my buddy Harrison.

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Sindri Hlídar Jónsson

Sindri Hlídar Jónsson

Thank you so much for the kind words Tate.
Had a blast hanging out with you guys. Great write up

Tim Cammisa

Tim Cammisa

Thanks for sharing this story, Tate, and it was great fly fishing with you in Iceland. There was lots to cover during that trip, and you hit some of the major highlights. Let’s see where our next journey takes us…

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