Greenland Arctic Char Fishing (Once in a lifetime trip)

forward by Lindsay Simpson

I have known Alan Ward for more years than I care to recall, A former Captain of the Soldier Palmers team and an all-around good guy. Alan has already made his name in the world of photography and has literally dozens of front covers to his credits. He has recently gone into videography and has made several short films on fishing and shooting. Alan has kindly written up a guest blog for IFLYFISH from his recent trip to Greenland, enjoy and check out the short film at the end of the blog. You can view more of Alans work on his You Tube Channel

Latitude: 66.93935 Longitude: 53.64230  

I did wonder if I would get to Greenland after months of prior preparation, to seek out Arctic Sea Run Char where I had heard they fought like dogs. Three weeks before I was due to head out with another pal I contracted e-coli, a dose of penicillin put me right, but I went down with it again one week later so more tablets. To cap it all (No pun intended) a major tooth ache developed a week before departure, tooth extraction was the only option and I thought this was all going to be fine. But no, another infection and more tablets! Bugger me, the day before I was due for departure I nearly cut my finger off with a bread knife and at one stage thought I would need a blood transfusion. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to turn into a junkie I was taking so many tablets. Finally, the departure date arrived, flight to Copenhagen with an overnight stay at a hotel with a big fat boy steak washed down with a bottle of vino. Next day saw us fly to Kangerlussuaq Greenland with another flight 1 hr later to Nuuk where we would overnight at Sessimet until the tide was good to sail 2hrs through the fjords to disembark to our camp site. It takes a bit of getting to this place!


Our group was accompanied by other anglers from all walks of life for the 6 .5 days fishing, Germans mainly a couple of Swedish chaps and one American. Having travelled as far as we could go in the Gemini we were met with a huge barrow to transport out personal baggage and food supplies to the camp site 500meters or so, gruelling work with a couple of folks not pulling their weight, they soon had a poke in the chest Army style to encourage them to help out!


The camp site was very primitive with the smallest one man tents you could get, cost of tents obviously scrimped on by the company, but we adapted to the situation. The latrine was inspected and straight away the pungent smell of shit hit me and thoughts drifted back to my days in Afghanistan. Whilst serving there the unit would use make shift thunder boxes, they stank but this was a black bin with a lid on and a hole cut out, different thunder box same result I suppose.


The chef was a German lad, his culinary skills shone and he knocked up some cracking food. There was fresh Char on the menu, from Sushi to his own Char dishes, taste of Char was delicious, and I doubt I will get to taste that again anytime soon. With all the settling in it was time to explore the fishing pools set within some of the most stunning scenery with snowed capped mountains and a gin clear river. Mosquitoes and black flies soon appeared with the gentle breeze gone and holy fook it was time to quickly get the head nets out, these little blighters where severe and in the thousands. I remember going for a dump and that feeling that won’t be soon forgotten felt like a 2mm needle being inserted into my ball bag one morning, jeeze I hope that Mozzi is dead now.


 So, it was off to explore the pools, kitted out with 6-7 weight rods with mainly floating lines and intermediates. We soon came across a fishy pool that first evening after a few kilometres stroll. The first cast I was straight into a Char of around 6lb that screamed the line off at a rate of knots, burning my finger on the backing, I thought then yes, they do fight like dogs. Run after run after run, we were conscious that we had to get these fish in as soon as we could to release back into the river. Next my mate hit one far bigger and he was running down the bank to catch up with the fish that had literally stripped him down river 30 yards or so, unfortunately. He lost that one and we found out during the week that we were going to lose a fair few with only barbless hooks allowed. Having fished to around 1am as it was daylight 24hrs a day we headed back to the campsite to get into a routine and get some kip.


After a fairly uncomfortable night on the roll matt and temperatures’ dropping drastically, just to remind us we are 35k from the Arctic Circle. A breakfast was in order after a wash down by the river just to feel the cold but soft water, it woke you up a bit. Breakfast was served up mainly consisting of scrambled egg and German sausages. There were also cereals to choose from each day and pancakes making an appearance on the odd day. Kit packed and always prepared for a sudden change of weather, clothing for the change was also taken, video gear and cameras soon piled the weight on our backs. Due to the weight allowance for flying we only had enough clothing for 2 days so it was going to have to be washed down by the river at some point, but we just opted for a rotation, sort of stank after a few days of body odour but hey no one was going to notice only on the plane on the way back…


We eventually made progress finding the better pools after a day or so, we had taken streamer and floating foam flies tied up mainly by Lindsay and a pattern Steve Cullen had sent over to me prior to departure. During the next day or so we found these where ineffective until the evening when the sun had gone down over the mountains. We found by chance that Czech nymphs size 10-14 was a far better approach, holding onto a 9-10lb Char with these tested the rods, which held up well. Our arms were aching after one or two of these fish you had to rest, when the sun past over the mountains, floating foam and streamer patterns came into play,  great watching a bow wave following the foam fly and even better when they took, but you had to hold on as the runs where fierce.


 The week continued still with even further hiking to pools with a boat that you could take up the fjord to another part of the river to some waterfalls. Here the Char where stacked knee high but to get them to take a fly was another thing, the odd one being taken. This excursion would involve a 20k hike without the boat ride, hard going and arduous under foot. Day 6 arrived and we had had plenty of Char and to be fair lost plenty of great fighting fish. Bags packed and onto the trolley with the lightweights who had skived on the inbound doing most of the pulling and pulling this time. A good departure dinner and a bottle of vino ready for the return journey home from Greenland. An amazing experience in a perfect setting.

Alan Ward