Greenland - Fishing in ParadiseAs the boat that had brought us here, faded to a small red spot in the midst of this steely blue vastness, we waved goodbye and began to carry our gear from the beach up to the small wood cabin, our shelter for the next five days in total solitude.

I think I had dreamed of this moment forever, encountering the mythic Inuit people and fishing some of the countless rivers, we had so often flown over en route for elsewhere.

We had arrived in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, two days ago. Just in time to slowly wander around this small town of 15,000 habitants, visit the amazing anthropology museum and stock up on provisions for our few days in isolation.

The choice had been interesting, alongside bread, fruit, and vegetables we found musk ox, reindeer and seal.

»In Greenland you are guaranteed to find peace, tranquillity and a great abundance of fish«

Qooqqut, in the middle of Greenland’s nature

After a two hour boat journey here we were at the end of an arm of Godthaabsfjord. We had sailed between two hundred metre high mountain walls capped with glaciers overhanging the fjord, to a »cul de sac«, the bay of Qooqqut. 

From the gravel beach where we had landed, we could clearly see a river on each side of us, nestling in the valleys between the hills all around.

As with most of the rivers here we knew there were fish, but our information was sketchy because as far as we knew, no one had as yet cast a fly into these waters.

But if we had chosen this heaven of peace to begin our trip, it was primarily to better appreciate the true nature of this country, travel to its heart, and ours.

Once settled into our comfortable cabin, as the days were still very long at the beginning of August, curiosity sent us, rod in hand, to have a look at the river mouth which appeared to be very close, just on the other side of the bay. 

But as we were to discover many times, the pureness and dryness of the air here makes everything appear much closer and judging distances is not always easy.

So we just had time to get to the river, cast flies for half an hour before heading back, but it was enough to reassure us that the river held many silvery arctic char.

After a dinner of the fresh cod we had fished in the fjord during our journey here and a good nights sleep, we were ready to set off over the mountains to the upper part of the valley. 

Greenland - Fishing in ParadisePlenty of fish in the Greenlandic fjord

With no marked footpath the walking was hard amongst the thick bushes, so we decided to walk on higher ground where the vegetation was less dense.

Following the reindeer tracks we eventually reached a rocky ridge overlooking the river. From here we could see its waterfalls and pools and the promises of an excellent day of fishing. A 20-minute hike later, we could not believe our eyes. As we approached the river we realised the pool below us was chock full of arctic char.

We were so impatient we did not bother with waders, just tied on our brightest, flashiest flies, reminiscent of Christmas decorations, and began fishing. 

In the crystal clear waters, perched up on the rocks, we observed as a char rushed from the river bed up to our dry fly with such speed, that he was already back down with the others, before I realised that I should have set the hook.

If the first fish took us by surprise, it was not so for the next one, which was already on Kathleen’s line and fighting hard. it was an 800 gram fish, who put up a big fight, rushing in all directions, before diving into the current. 

One for you, one for me. For the next 30 minutes we caught fish one after another, until, eventually, things slowed down and they decided the game was over and stopped biting.

Greenland - Fishing in ParadiseColorful nature in Greenland

But a short break for lunch or moving on to another pool was enough to realise that the fishing was just as miraculous. The sun was shining, we had a river all to ourselves. 

We slowly worked our way down the river, certain that its source was somewhere high above, probably somewhere close to heaven.

Further downstream the gradient got steeper and the water faster and we ended the day with large bead heads and hairs ear nymphs in pink or dark orange, colours greatly appreciated by the local fauna.

The sun slid behind the mountains and Kathleen added a second layer while observing that it was definitely a »very cool place« (I was not sure if she meant the fishing or the sudden drop in temperature). Cold and hungry despite the handfuls of wild berries we had eaten all day, we headed back home. 

Our shadows stretched out endless-
ly on the mountainside as the sun, tired after such a long day, lingered on the other side of the fjord, its pale rays turning to gold, painting the landscape with its fantastic palette of blue, purple and pink before hiding behind the dark mountain peaks.

»The pureness and dryness of the air makes everything appear much closer«

The turf hut in Greenland

One morning a cold wind was blowing off the glaciers. The kind of wind that finds its way through the many layers of clothing we were wearing. It certainly was not a day for ambling. 

It was a day to keep moving to keep warm, so we decided to explore the valley further east where another river flowed. 

After hiking over the hills and rocks we headed down to the estuary and were surprised to discover a small rectangular construction made from peat sod walls with a flat turf covered roof.

The house was perfectly maintained with one room unlocked as is the tradition to offer shelter to passers by. A small net drying nearby told us the house was still occupied, but perhaps it was also a sign, that the river could be full of fish.

We had our answer after the first cast, a fly dragged over the surface immediately had a strike, and we realised that the char here were bigger than those we had fished so far.

The reason for this became clear, when we moved up river. Here we were faced with a 200 m wall with a multitude of falls, and cascades which the fish had to pass, before reaching their spawning area in the lake above.

Centuries of natural selection meant only the strongest fish could overcome such an obstacle.

Greenland - Fishing in ParadiseHumpback whale in the Greenlandic fjord

Despite the long summer days at this latitude our stay came to an end too soon and we had only had time to explore a small part of the rivers here.

Huddled in the boat heading back to Nuuk, as if sensing our glumness, a whale approached the boat and with several moves of its tail cheered us up and wished us »bon vent« for the rest of our trip.

The next day we headed out from Nuuk with a small group of Icelandic fisherman to Equaluit Paarlit, a magnificent glacier fed river half an hour boat trip away. 

The outlet from a small lake clears the water just enough for us to see the fish and sight cast to try and tempt them with our dry flies.

Having just experienced five perfect dream like days, selfishly and greedily we wished we could have this river all to ourselves, too, but the chars eagerly showed us that they are plentiful enough to play with our whole team, and once again we spend a marvellous day in their company.

Greenland - Fishing in ParadiseFishing in South Greenland

The day we were leaving Nuuk, we woke to find the landscape had dissolved in a thick mist which had erased everything in it’s tracks. Sitting in the airport we could hear our plane circling above waiting to land. And finally after several hours the fog cleared enough and we were able to head south over the immense ice cap. 

From the plane window the view was awesome. Mountain peaks emerged with difficulty from the ice three km deep at some points. We flew over fjords with glaciers, massive tongues of ice flowing into the sea and breaking into huge blocks of ice in every shade of blue.

Our new base was Narsarsuaq, one hour and five minutes away. After a night in the youth hostel we set off by boat for another day of fishing at the end of a fjord.

We had been warned, that it had not rained for 31 days, so we were not surprised to discover the Qorlortoq, a magnificent river whose bed seemed much too big for such one so delicate.

Walking upstream where the blue ribbon flowed through a beautiful dark red and orange canyon.

Looking closer we saw that at the foot of each fall, schools of char were gathered, waiting for the next spate to continue their journey upstream.

Spotting some good sized fish we cast a dry fly into the pool, but undoubtedly stressed by the low water levels they kept their noses down and showed no interest in rising to our flies.

So we changed tactic and from pool to pool, perched on the rocks we cast pink and green bead head nymphs which they took all day.

Greenland - Fishing in ParadiseThe milky white river in Greenland

The next day was a complete change of scenery and conditions: The river Qingua, a glacier fed river, fast flowing, green and milky, saturated with minerals from the glacier worn rocks. 

Wading »on the rocks« in the icy cold water was not pleasant nor was drinking the water straight from the river, as we did with all the rivers here, but imagining that these waters came from precipitation which had fallen many thousands of years ago was purely fantastic.

We decided to fish with sinking lines to get our flies as deep as possible, down where we hoped the fish were and I was pleasantly surprised to immediately hook a char.

The river was large and the current strong that alone could not explain the strength of this fish. After eight minutes combat I finally tired him out and saw the fish.

I had caught a very strong five kg char. All day similar size fish went for our flies and bravely battled like titans. They were all exceptionall, sized fish, there really was no need to stretch out our arms for the photo.

Greenland - Fishing in ParadiseNanortalik, the southernmost city in Greenland

Heading further south by helicopter we flew over a rugged jagged coastline, a deep blue sea, opalescent icebergs which had drifted down the east coast, round Cape Farewell and ended trapped in the many fjords and canals we passed. 

A breathtaking chain of steep jagged mountain peaks surrounded Nanortalik, our next stop.

This small cheery glistening port with its brightly coloured houses seemed to mock the extreme rigours of the climate.

Lost amongst the many islands, tucked behind monumental mountains it shelters a warm, welcoming population who has persevered in keeping its culture and sense of courtesy and hospitality. 

A few ruins of turf houses used during winter months and seal skin tents for the warmer season, stand facing the ocean and remind us that less than half a century ago the ancestral way of life was still present. 

What remains today helps the fragile population remain tightly knitted despite the loss of traditions necessary for survival in such extreme conditions.

Greenland - Fishing in ParadiseParadise in Greenland

We headed out the next day at sunrise. In the small zodiac which took us across Tasermiut Fjord we felt very small and vulnerable in the immensity of the landscape which surrounded us.

Breathtaking vertical jagged mountain peaks and at the end of the fjord we come face to face with a wall of ice one km high; the ice cap.

We continued up a branch of the fjord and the scenery changed back to a more human scale, a lush green bay with a farm nestled in it.

If in North Greenland ice and mineral dominate, here in the south, a surprisingly luxurious flora has adapted and developed. For this reason in 1000 AD when Erik the Red landed here, he named the country »Greenland«. 

Lake Tasersuaq where we were going to fish, was about an hour’s hike away but the farmer kindly agreed to transport us and the zodiac by tractor.

If I was asked to describe a day fishing in Paradise, I do not think I could have imagined a more enchanting place.

Like a precious jewel the jagged lace of mountain peaks is the setting for shimmering glaciers, encircling a clear calm turquoise lake and at the end an emerald river. 

The Fjords in Greenland

Suulut, our guide, tells us that because of the presence of the ruins of a monastery in the valley where the river Kuussuaq flows, it is called »Paradise Valley«. We are not surprised. 

But sadly after a contemplative pause, time to check that here too fishing is good and already we had to head back.

As we sailed across the fjord the white foam line behind the boat seemed for a few instants to try and tie us to this magical place then suddenly, as if with the wave of a magic wand a grey yellow light dissolved the sea and sky in a thick mist and numb with cold all that remained were the multitude of images inside my head and I thought how after the long winter, an endless twilight, when all turns to black and white, after four months nature will once again explode, and the unfrozen rivers will welcome once again millions of char as they have for thousands of years into their beds.

»If I was asked to describe a day fishing in Paradise I do not think I could have imagined a more enchanting place«

Practical notes about traveling in Greenland

  • Dragging a fly over the surface is all it takes to get a char up from the bottom. Bigger fish prefer nymphs and streamers.
  • Two rods in case you break one. 
  • Char can be very powerful.
  • Two reels : A floating line and a fast sinking for colder waters.
  • Dry flies in orange, pink, brown, green, shiny and neutral coloured. 
  • All flies should be on barbless hooks.
  • When flying to Greenland you will have two main airlines to choose from: Air Greenland & Air Iceland Connect 
  • Within Greenland there is regular flights by plane or helicopter.
  • Several hotels, bed and breakfast and hostels.
  • The anthropological museum in Nuuk is definitely worth visiting.
  • Restaurant is worth a visit to try local specialities, reindeer, seal, musk ox, lamb.
  • Char head up the rivers in July and first fortnight of August. 
  • It is necessary to take layers of warm clothes and a good waterproof. 
  • A head-net is protection enough against insects.