Sporting Classics Digital

Jan/Feb 2017

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Page 197 of 253

the mountain glacier. At all other times the trout must fend for themselves. Just how they manage that was obvious from the state of my brown's dorsal fin, which was missing a perfect, bite-sized section—a remnant of some earlier attack by a larger, cannibalistic brown. The piscivorous browns of the Ranga also have noticeably longer and sharper teeth than those I am used to catching back home in Arkansas, which, as Snævarr puts it, is "a clear sign that evolution is at work." Thanks to Snævarr, a record now exists of the growth rate of these fish. Over a ten-year period or longer he expects to be able to extrapolate age data, plot good years and bad, and, in the long run, begin taking a stab at the possible effects of global warming. Although he has resisted any suggestion of seeking scientific publication (reasoning that doing so would take the fun out of the fishing), Snævarr's data is very, very valuable to those who hope to preserve and protect Iceland's tremendous brown trout fishery. T his much is obvious: Snævarr loves Bót. He loves its ramshackle fields, broken into ankle-twisting hillocks by Iceland's never-ending freeze-and-thaw cycle. He loves its bird species, which he can identify by egg, voice, or just a glimpse of a wing. And he loves its trout, possibly more than anyone has ever loved anything about that particularly well-loved place. This is also clear: Iceland needs as many Snævarrs as it can get, because careful stewardship of its resources is the only way to preserve them. Iceland would not be the first nation to admire its natural wonders right into oblivion. With a rising awareness of catch-and- release, certainly an awareness that tourism is only likely to increase, and a willingness to question and probe received wisdom, the next generation of Icelandic anglers shows every sign of being up for the challenge. And one day, if Snævarr does have a son or a daughter, he will be able to pass along his own kind of received wisdom: "Above this waterfall," he may say, "there are still trout." n Editor's Note: A native of Arkansas, Zach Matthews grew to love the pursuit of brown trout. He is a frequent contributor to many national outdoor magazines. He also hosts The Itinerant Angler Podcast ( in a nation where catch-and-kill is arguably still the norm. Since beginning his study in 2010, Snævarr has tagged more than 90 different trout. Each fish was measured, weighed carefully in a net bag, tagged, and then released. I fished with Snævarr for a night, a day, and another night. In that time frame, despite heavy, late glacial runoff thanks to a cold spring season, we recaptured three fish longer than 20 inches on the Imperial scale, or, as Snævarr would remind me with scientific precision, "You mean more than 50 centimeters." Two of those fish, both mature males, were among the largest Snævarr had ever caught. Their stories, as recorded in Snævarr's meticulously kept logbook, were remarkable: In 2010, when the trout tagged as #75 was first captured, Snævarr recorded its length at 50 centimeters (20 inches). He caught the same fish again in 2013, holding in the exact same spot in a pool not far above the "impassable" waterfall. By then it had gained three centimeters and weighed more than three pounds. Two years after that, in the summer of 2015, I caught the same fish, again in the same pool, and it had gained three centimeters, now reaching 22 1 /2 inches and weighing close to four pounds. Having lost its tag, we were able to confirm that it was the same fish by its distinctive spot pattern above the caudal fin, referencing Snævarr's original picture before re-tagging it and once again releasing it to continue growing. Snævarr's second fish, tag #82, was even more interesting. He had caught it twice before, both times in late summer 2014, only eight days apart. At that time the trout was 54 centimeters (roughly 21 inches), but oh-so-fat-and-happy at more than five pounds. It had spent the summer of 2014 sitting in the canyon section of the river below a waterfall that constantly churned with exhausted, delicious Arctic char smelt. On our second evening, in June 2015, Snævarr caught trout #82 again, but this time it told a different story. For one, it was two and a half miles downriver from the canyon where it spent the previous summer. It had grown a half-inch in length, but it had lost an entire pound—20 percent of its body mass, sacrificed to winter over just nine months' time. The smelt, you see, only get washed down when the sun is warm enough to melt A PlAce Out Of time Continued from page 133 194 • S P O R T I N G C L A S S I C S

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