Zion NP. Angels Landing to the south.

South Utah National Parks and National Monuments

South Utah has a string of fabulous National Parks. From east to west we have —


then Canyonlandshttps://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm on to

Capitol Reefhttps://www.nps.gov/care/index.htm.

Then we have Bryce Canyonhttps://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

and finally, Zionhttps://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm in the south west corner.

On top of this we have Bears Ears National Monumenthttps://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/utah/bears-ears-national-monument between Canyonlands and Capitol Reef.

From Capitol Reef to Bryce there is the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monumenthttps://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/utah/grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument.

Zion National Park

This list of natural wonders is in itself enough to keep anyone full of awe and profound respect for the forces of nature.

In Zion I spotted some vultures soaring in their familiar fashion. I suddenly noticed a much bigger black bird cruising in the canyon. I immediately thought “it’s a condor” but nay – they are so rare. Probably the rarest extant bird in the world. My wife got in two shots with her 200 mm lens (you need more, but it will have to do) and when we blew up the image the case was settled. The white coloring on the wings’ underside clinched the diagnosis. A condor it was, and we were suitably impressed and thankful for getting to witness this majestic bird cruise effortlessly in Zion canyon.

Humans are capable of immense destruction of nature. We are in a period of extinction of animals and moving towards a climate catastrophe. However, humans are also capable of immense feats when we choose to. When we understand that we are a part of nature – not its outside masters – it is possible that we can solve the environmental problems we have created and survive and even thrive. On my positive days I am a pessimist and I do not harbor much hope that we as a species will come to our senses. However, the condor story gives me hope. I choose to recount my condor story because it is positively amazing, and it underlines what we are capable of when we set our minds to it.

The Condor Project

1987 Californian condors were nearing extinction. The US government funded an ambitious and expensive plan to breed and then reintroduce the condors. All extant Californian condors were caught and brought to participating zoos. The Condors will lay one egg every other year. If that egg is promptly removed, they will double clutch (i.e. lay another egg). The chicks were hand reared and little by little the stock increased. Now, to make certain that the condors could survive when released, two female Andean condors were released in South California, and they did fine, thereby proving the point. Subsequently those two Andean condors were caught and returned to South America. Now, condors have been released in South California, in the Grand Canyon Arizona, Zion National Park, and North Mexico. In short, the birds are making a slow comeback. Now their biggest threat in the wild is lead poisoning, acquired by eating animal carcasses peppered with lead shot. Hunters in condor areas are now supposed to use lead-free shot.


Condor cruising in Zion National Park
Condor cruising in Zion National Park
Condor cropped
Condor cropped from previous picture
Condor in Zion National Park
Condor in Zion National Park
Condor cropped
Condor cropped from above picture

Photography – Drifa Freysdottir

Jonas waiting for the moment

You can look, but don’t touch! Oh, how wise that advice is. We start out looking at the opposite sex – but beware!– we can’t resist! Then it seems we end up looking at cookies we shouldn’t touch, but then we do. Same goes for ours life savings.

I took a trip to an undisclosed Bahamian island in January with some of my friends. It is not a famed Bonefish destination. There are Bonefish there, of course, but they are very hard to find. The trip is about escaping the daily grind (feeding the dogs and cats) and enjoying mild weather as the winter rages in the Florida Panhandle. The company of friends is great, of course, up to a point (see picture below). 

Baz and Snead
Snead and Odell

This time around the weather in the Panhandle was truly nasty, and the Bahamian weather was mild but very windy, with real tough fishing conditions. I seem to be fixated on the weather and I blame my roots in Iceland for that. The weather there is erratic and nasty as a rule. The wind is constant and brisk and it has shaped the way we walk.  All really adapted Icelanders lean into the wind as they walk. When there is no wind, they still lean, and once I spotted one of my friends on a busy street in Stockholm just by the way he walked. There is something about the national style of walking that is a dead giveaway. All telephone conversations between Icelanders start with – and you could be at the Taj Mahal – how is the weather? Living at 66 North affects one. But back to the flats…  Previously I have touched on the moving parts of Bonefish chasing – so I will not regurgitate that part.

Bonefish are a very exciting fish to chase. Hard to spot – finicky, and if hooked, tremendously fast.  In the Bahamas they are protected, i.e., you have to release them.  How best to do that?  I am guilty of having handled fish and posing for an egotistical picture with the fish and then releasing it. However, the best way to go about this is to let them stay in the water and try to release them without touching them. The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust have a very good web page on this. 


There is one reason additionally to not take a fish out of the water. In water they weigh very little (Archimedes’ law), but when out of the water the effects of gravity are stronger than they are used to. This can lead to internal bleeding when the internal organs experience this. 

Here is a short video on how I managed to unhook Bonefish.



Nice loop on the forward cast

I gave a presentation on “Matching a Fly Rod to a Flyline” 1/18/19 for the Fly Fishers of Northwest Florida my local fly club. For my effort I was awarded a pair of castanetes by the club’s president Dr. Handley.

David presents Jonas with Castanets
David presents Jonas with Castanets

You can enjoy the lecture or not at


Ólafur Ólafsson

When running an inpatient surgical ward there is a constant struggle to get the patients home after operations. There is, of course, some reasonable length of stay needed for serious matters etc. However, from my point of view some of my patients could go home sooner than they themselves wanted. There were all kinds of ploys used to hasten their discharge, but the opposition had some tricks up its sleeve, too. For instance, when I would do the rounds on Monday, I expected that someone would be able to go home on Wednesday. So, I would suggest discharge on a Tuesday. Then when the patient began to balk I would suggest: „Well ok Wednesday then,” and everybody was happy. The hospital had a library and the patients used it in their convalescent period (Icelanders are a literate bunch). Then I had the following rule to lighten the atmosphere in the wards where there were a number of patients together. Of course, the patients preferred the romantic genre of books, for example, the Red Series (Fabian bare chested, etc.). The rule: Whenever a book like that was spotted on a patient’s nightstand, they would be unceremoniously discharged (or an attempt would be made on the basis of the evidence).  If you can read that stuff you are ready to go home, right? And It would happen that this did not go over too well.

Ólafur Ólafsson

Ólafur Ólafsson

At that time, we had a Surgeon General of Iceland Ólafur Ólafsson, who was and still is a crusty old guy. He sported bushy white hair, and his equally bushy eyebrows were in the Santa Claus class. He was at the tail end of his career at that time. His voice was deep and gravely, and had he been an American he would have been reading the voice overs in the Whiskey and Cigarette commercials. He probably would have put James Earl Jones out of the voice work. As Surgeon General he has a great sense of humor and the ability to see the absurd and funny in just about any setting. He was always a champion for the patients and their rights, and was never a tame tool for the politicians – he was a very unconventional civil servant. He gave me invaluable advice: “Jonas, just be yourself.”

Contrast him with the Suits and apparatchiki that we have met through our lives.


Author‘s addition to the definitions: A Suit – a civil servant totally devoid of any charm, humor or even a face.

Ólafur could be a handful, especially when he called in the middle of the night (he is a night owl) to discuss some pressing issue. You are fast asleep in some happy dream and then “It is Ólafur” and you began thinking – it must be some damn volcanic eruption. When he was still working, his offices were next to the square where the homeless and unfortunate souls of Reykjavik congregated. To his credit, he always kept a protective eye on his neighbors and tended to their needs. When he retired he palmed them off to another humanist doctor. I just love this guy for lots of reasons.

Now, one of my patients got offended by my Red Series comment and made a formal complaint to the surgeon general. Such a matter needed to be resolved and resolved it was.

I got a formal reprimand letter from the Surgeon General’s Office stating (loosely translated):


Ólafur Ólafsson landlæknir
Reprimand letter



It has come to the Surgeons General’s notice that you have been joking around with your patients during the morning rounds.

It is decided by the Surgeon General that you are not to joke around with your patients.


Ólafur Ólafsson

P.S. Unless they have the same sense of humor that the Surgeon General has.

P.P.S. It is forbidden to divulge the content of this letter.


I contacted Ólafur on my last visit to Iceland and he released me from the ban.

I am sure that governments and especially the populations the world over are be better served by persons such as Ólafur as compared to their empty, talking Suits.

Ready to go

Icelandic Medical Association centennial – fly casting course

In the fall of 2017 I got an email from IMA’s president asking me to teach a fly casting course to Icelandic doctors. The IMA is celebrating its centennial this year, and the president thought it a good idea to introduce some play into the pomp. I was all for it and started to organize the course. Indoor or outdoor is the first dilemma. Outdoor is a better option generally if we could have some other weather than Icelandic, but it is the only one we have there in the subarctic.  There is a near constant area of low-pressure area at our latitudes called the Icelandic low.


We Icelanders never use that word or acknowledge the low’s existence because it is just too damn depressing. Denial is a robust defense mechanism. However, all phone calls between Icelanders start with “How is the weather?”

So, outdoors was not feasible. To get anything done in Iceland it must be before spring (if there will be one that year at all). When the days get longer, and temperatures get into double digits (Centigrade) the natives go nuts. It is impossible to plan anything because now everyone is so busy living and enjoying life – scheduling a course then would be utter folly. In the summers it is even worse to get together a group of people. So, March indoor it was. We secured a good size gym and announced the course, and all the spots we had available were promptly filled. Forty-five persons booked and 42 showed up. What I was most pleased with was that 15 ladies participated. Some of them were intermediate and some beginners at fly casting. Unfortunately, fly casting gatherings can get to look like a Trump rally at times. We need to attract young people and more females into the mix.

Stefán keeping an eye on Gunnar - Guðbjörg doing fine

Stefán keeping an eye on Gunnar – Guðbjörg doing fine

Gubjörg bringing the rod tip too far back i.e. wristing

Gubjörg bringing the rod tip too far back i.e. wristing

I have discovered that it is far easier to teach females to propel the fly than males. Females do not resort to brute strength and are much more limber. They also listen better than males and pay attention. There are some great female casters, and Joan Wulff was the best of both sexes for a spell – her accomplishments were not built on power (Ms. Wulff is still teaching, and her books are great). Usually it takes up to an hour to break down a male and get his attention.  Starting out they use far more power than they ever need, and the speed they use is excessive. So, the first hour goes like this: “Slow down – slow down – are you deaf – slow down. God dammit, slow down. Less power – less power – have you got a seizure?” I do not know for certain why males behave this way – I think it might be the testosterone marinade that we males live in. However, when they slow down and go gently a big smile is usually our reward. “Wow I could feel that.” – is the refrain – meaning they felt the rod unload in their hand (a bent rod straightens and counter flexes and then straightens again – you will feel a slight kick in your hand – called unloading). The term casting is perhaps inappropriate. There is no follow through of the hand as when we throw a stone, and we stop the rod tip high – it is the rod tip that propels the line forward – the caster only bends the rod tip with his motion.

Gunnar and Stefán

Gunnar and Stefán

Þorgerður doing the triangle exercise

Þorgerður doing the triangle exercise

Many ways to skin a cat

An old friend of mine Stefan B Hjaltested was a co-instructor, and we got along very well. He did teach differently than I do, but we both got the same results in the same amount of time. He did not use any technical terms – do this – no do not do that etc. – was his way. His approach is “teach them like they are children.” This only proves that there are many ways to skin a cat.

All in all, we taught for 30 hours and we hope that our students had as much fun as we had.

We also hope that all our students learned a lot and will diligently practice new tricks before their future fishing trips.

Pictures – Davíð Valdimarsson

Berlin Airlift

As a boy I vaguely remember reading about the Berlin airlift (Berliner Luftbrücke­­­ – i.e. airbridge).


That was when the russkies were naughty (they still are), and ­­when they wanted to mess with Europe they just squeezed its balls, i.e. Berlin. To get vital supplies to Berlin after the roads and railways were closed (by the russkies), the Allies resorted to a massive airlift to keep the city running.  I found this utterly fascinating and subsequently had a brief obsession with airplanes. One of my casting students (a retired pilot) actually flew on those missions via that corridor [via one of the three permitted air corridors]. But I am just rambling, so I will get on with it.


During the tail end of my Med School days, I got the opportunity to do a locum (relieve some doctor who needed a break) in general practice out in the sticks. This was very welcomed since we med students got paid, and it was a learning opportunity for us. What the patients thought of it is not clear, but I guess they thought it better to have someone manning the shop, albeit an inexperienced medical student. It was deemed prudent by the authorities to send two med students to relieve one experienced doctor. So off we (I and my colleague) went and wound up in the farthest district from Reykjavik on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

That month turned out to become very eventful, and we were very busy. At this stage in your journey as a doctor everything is just so damn interesting and stimulating. We for instance had a patient who developed a sudden onset of pain in one eye! What the heck can that be? So, dive into books (remember no internet), and if we needed more, a corded telephone was our best ally. We treated cardiac arrhythmia, overdose, urinary retention and even plucked shot gun pellets from the derriere of the local police officer. Plus, all the other more routine ailments. It turned out that the organ specialists in Akureyri (closest big town) and Reykjavik, whom we repeatedly had to consult, were very helpful. They probably remembered their own bygone locums, so the system worked – if you had the sense to ask for help. We both were keenly aware off our limitations, and relatively free of hubris (that came later) – but when I reflect on that period I realize that we were so ignorant of all the ways things can go caput [go to hell in a handbasket] in medicine, that we just happily forged on with our trusted ally, the telephone. When I gained more experience I never encountered a situation that I could not make substantially worse by untimely intervention or the wrong one. So, make sure your indications for doing anything in medicine are solid before proceeding.

To give you a glimpse of the Zeitgeist  I can share the following story. We got a call from a farmer who had some pain in his chest. “A stick  fell on my back” was the story. “Can you come out here and have a look?” When we arrived at the farm, we met the family, and then we were invited to a meal. There was no examining until after. After that and conversations about our family trees (yup, that was the social norm) we got to have a look at the farmer. This was the typical attitude of those people in those days. Tradition dictates a certain decorum, and it is to be observed even if you had a “stick” fall on your back.


Driftwood a.k.

As it turned out, the “stick” was in fact a large driftwood log. This farm owned a stretch of beach where you could harvest these logs. Such logs drift from Siberia to Iceland’s shores and were through the ages extremely valuable as there were no big trees in Iceland for construction purposes.

Transpolar current bringing driftwood to Iceland

Transpolar current bringing driftwood to Iceland

Furthermore, they were salt impregnated after their journey in the ocean and thus rot resistant. The farmer had his ribs on one side broken with air under the skin (subcutaneous air). When you encounter such air, it feels like the crunch of newly fallen snow under your fingers. The lung was punctured, but the farmer was stable so we sent him off via airplane to the nearest hospital in Akureyri.

During the Cold War the Americans had built a radar station on the top of a nearby mountain and ran it from 1954 to 1968.

Driftwood and the mountain

Driftwood and the mountain

To service it there was a small airfield on the shore running from east to west. To be able to land there, a radio beacon had to be turned on.  The airfield manager (and only personnel) turned the beacon on after receiving a call from Keflavik. ”Can you turn the beacon on Mr. X?” to which the answer was “Whiskey?” “No damn it – no whiskey.” “No whiskey no beacon.” They could get by with few words.  If the negotiations were successful, the beacon got turned on, and the airfield manager was happy. The way alcohol is sold in Iceland is through state monopoly shops. Sweden has the same system, for instance, and it is rumored that the people living on the Faroe Islands only get to buy their liquor if their taxes are paid. The state shops in Iceland are called “Der Reich” (The state) and exist only in the bigger towns. The population with no “Der Reich” makes a phone call, and the merchandise is delivered with the next post delivered by flight. It was thus imperative to receive the post on a Friday. On Friday the airfield manager had radioed in the local weather conditions on which the pilot made his decision to fly or not. The “terminal” at our local airfield was the bridge cut off from a decommissioned trawler.  Yet it functioned well.  We were in the terminal once waiting for some medical supplies when we witnessed another interesting exchange on Friday afternoon:  “You reported the local weather – visibility unlimited – calm – no clouds” came the voice of the pilot from the radio. Then we could hear the drone of a plane from above, but it was totally overcast (clouds 600 feet), wind from the north 10 mph (crosswind). “Yes – it is amazing how the weather on the arctic ocean can change in a heartbeat,” answered the airfield manager tongue in cheek. Now the calm voice of the pilot was heard – “I am going to kill you Mr. X.” “Well, you have to land to do that” was the logical answer. The bush pilots are very good, so nothing untoward happened despite dicey weather. We got our supplies, and the village its vital necessities.

Casting Clinic February 2018

My local fly club is called FFNWF (Fly Fishers of North West Florida). Now that is a mouth-full without vowels but still not quite Hebrew. We just love our abbreviations here, but I can tell you that it takes a while to understand them. Especially if English (American?) is your third language. Some abbreviations are simple and ubiquitous like the OMG! exclamation that is now being used even in Icelandic parlance. What the heck does POS mean? Or NYOB – PAWS and on and on. So, here’s my advice to the natives – go easy on those abbreviations when talking to a non-native. But I digress.

Casting Clinic February 2018

Casting Clinic February 2018

When I first saw the term “Casting Clinic” in our monthly newsletter I was not sure what it referred to. Casting could refer to fly casting, but it could also mean shaping a plaster of Paris cast. The clinic part implies some medical endeavor in my understanding. But what I discovered, was that it means club members get together and wave their rods. The idea is that we supposedly teach each other, especially those who are starting out. Then we can show off a bit by banging out long casts with sharp pointy loops (Yup – guilty as charged). As I have been sucked closer and closer to the black hole of teaching fly casting, I realize that this way of preaching probably is not a very effective way of converting beginners to intermediate casters or intermediate casters to good ones (to become a great caster you need private lessons!).

Casting Clinic February 2018

Casting Clinic February 2018

So, this year we are running an experiment. I plan to introduce one special fly casting drill/exercise every clinic during the year. The February clinic was devoted to the pick-up and lay down cast. We had a good turnout – around 20 casters with several new faces, which was heartening. When we commenced I got up on my soap box and explained the basics of the cast to the group. Then we divided the group into subgroups of two, with one experienced caster in each, and set off to practice. I was a libero (soccer speak – for a player who is undisciplined, so he gets to roam around) and went from group to group running my mouth and praising technique or correcting small errors, etc. We focused on just this cast for half an hour, until it became apparent that the group was starting to lose focus. Then we reassembled in the larger group and went through the components of the cast. I was rather pleased with this first lesson and I hope that the next clinic will have a good turnout of students, especially new ones. These clinics are open for all comers.

Casting Clinic February 2018

Casting Clinic February 2018

The pickup and lay down cast

This is a basic fishing cast, and we will break it down into its components.

Its purpose is to unstick the fly from the water surface (the lift part) and cast the fly out again (the subsequent parts). We start casts by lifting the rod tip until the casting hand is at breast height. We do not rip the fly line from the water surface since that will scare the fish. When we lift the rod tip you will notice on the water that the fly line clears the surface and runs away from you to the leader. That is when you commence the casting stroke. Pay attention! If you wait too long the fly line will sag again to the surface. The idea is to have just the leader in the surface.

We start with fly line (30´ – 35´) and leader (7,5´) straight. There should be no slack in the line.

The Pick-up and Lay Down Cast

  1. Rod´s tip down and lift gently to shoulder level (peel)
  2. now we flick the line over the rod tip upwards and backwards (pluck)
  3. and pause for the line to straighten (pause)
  4. now we flick the rod forward (pat) and stop the hand at 10 o’clock. The line and leader straighten, and we let them gravitate/float down to the surface and let the rod tip follow.

Bonefish being released

Last November I fished for bonefish in the Bahamas with three of my friends. They are all experienced bonefish anglers, but I am not. I was very much looking forward to this trip to learn more about bonefishing. As it turned out, this trip was great and surprisingly the company, too.

My fishing buddies

My fishing buddies – Baz (checking the stock market) – Mike (note his tender cradling of the bottle) – and Dave

Our destination was Water Cay on the north side of Grand Bahamas. This location is off the beaten path with low fishing pressure, but with a reputation for big fish.

Water Cay - arrow points to lodge

Water Cay – arrow points to lodge

To get there we flew into Freeport, where we were picked up at the airport by our guides. From there to the marina where the skiffs awaited us is about a 40 minute drive. Our gear was stuffed into the skiffs, and we reached our destination in 20 minutes. From where I live (Florida Panhandle) I got there in half a day’s travel.

Loading the gear

Loading the gear

The lodge sits on the south tip of Water Cay with a small jetty. There are 3 double occupancy rooms on the left side for the anglers, and the ambiance is pleasant. The cooking and housekeeping was in the capable hands of Kay and Syd. The meals – both plentiful and good – were served in the dining room in the middle of the house.

The Water Cay lodge

The Water Cay lodge


Bonefish are a very challenging fish to catch. To do so you have to spot them. If you hook one you are in for a surprisingly fast run that will take you into the backing. If fishing from a skiff the angler should take a ready position at the bow. The guide is up on a poling platform in a better position to spot fish. When he does, he guides you to their position and if you are lucky, the fish can be reached with a cast. The skiffs used are shallow draft, very light, and with a poling platform. Bonefish can also be caught by wading the flats. Spotting them from a lower position is more difficult, but doable. Sometimes after finding a fish, the water is too shallow for the skiff. Then you try to get into a position by wading.

There are endless flats around the lodge and plentiful of mangrove thickets. These flats are a veritable smorgasbord for the fish as the tides move water onto and off the flats. Crabs and shrimp also move in, and the bonefish like to feed on them on the bottom.

Low tide mangroves

Low tide mangroves

The mangrove system (red mangrove)

The mangrove system (red mangrove)

Bonefish use the mangroves to escape and love to tangle you up by swimming through them.


The three guides: Sidney was the headguide, and Greg and Esra were very good guides too. They found fish everyday. Unfortunately,  only some were caught, but that is on the angler. The wind was a factor, and there were two cold fronts that came through during our stay.

Our guide Sidney

Our guide Sidney


Our guide Greg

Our guide Greg


Our guide Esra

Our guide Esra


What I liked about their approach to guiding was their teaching. They spot the fish, and then you were guided to the position by “Point your rod – left -stop – 45 feet,”  for instance. After you had totally bungled it, there was a brutally honest post mortem. “When you took that clumsy step up on the bow you scared the fish away.” Or “When you slapped that line down it scared the fish.” And “Nope that is a Barracuda.”

Small Barracuda

Small Barracuda

You get the picture. There were many more variants of my ineptitude, but when I did everything right the fish took a look at my fly and sometimes grabbed it.

(This is the Anna Karenina principle of fishing. Its first sentence: “Все счастливые семьи похожи друг на друга, каждая несчастливая семья несчастлива по-своему.” The standard translation: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Paraphrased: you succeed at bonefishing in only one way, but you can screw up in multiple ways.

After this trip I am confident that my skills have improved, thanks to their excellent teaching. We all caught fish, and I lucked into a 7.5 pounder that is my personal best in bonefish.

Baz hooked up

Baz hooked up


Mike hooked up

Mike hooked up


Jonas hooked up

Jonas hooked up

I did not fish with Dave, so I have no picture of proof, but he caught fish, too. This sums up our time there, and I plan to be back there next fall.

Chasing Bonefish

is difficult but exhilarating. Their runs are spectacular, and they are sneaky and run into the mangroves and out again to tangle you up. It is not a given that you land the one you hooked. However, that is in itself the most exciting part. To catch one you need several aspects to be aligned. First off you must see the fish, then can you cast to it and on and on. I have broken it down to the following parts to clarify my thinking and to give you an idea of the complexity involved.

The moving parts of Bonefishing

1. Sun position and its movement across the sky

It is always best to have sunshine, then they fish will have a shadow that you can spot, and that will lead you to the fish. It is best to keep the sun behind you so you do not have to look into the glare from the surface. How the sun is moving and how you are moving is important, and the guides set up their poling paths to take advantage of that. So trust your guides to do that part – you are in their home waters. On an overcast day the fish can still be spotted, but it is much harder.

2. Clouds and where they are moving

Pay attention to the clouds and how they are moving, since this directly affects visibility. If you are under a cloud, but there is sunshine “over there,” you move over there.

3. The wind

Be prepared for the wind. You might have to cast into a stiff breeze. The wind might be blowing onto your casting side, pushing the line into your body. You might have to make your back cast into a hard wind, and you must be able to solve that. Very rarely is the wind direction “right” and the wind light. The only advice I can give is that you should practice the “wind” casts before you go there.


Baz in the ready position

Baz in the ready position – line between the leaning poles

Line control is important in the wind. Mostly you can let the line loose on the deck if you take care to get it into the lower well of the skiff. There your fishing buddy can keep an eye on it and clear tangles. It is advantageous to place this line between the leaning poles – it seems to help control the line. One day it was blowing so hard that I had to hold the loops tight in my left hand. A very big loop on my pinkie, a slightly smaller one on my ring finger, and a smaller still on my middle finger, similar to what one  can do when using a two handed rod for salmon. Then you shoot it out when opportunity arises.

4. The tidal movement

As the tide inundates the mangroves, bonefish move into that maze to feed. When the tide falls the fish move off again. So, it is vital to be cognizant of the tidal movement. However, reading a tidal almanac is not enough. Wind can block the water from rising and conversely can block its egress from the flats. Local knowledge is the key, and the guides are tuned into this.

5. Travel line of fish and speed

Bonefish rarely keep still. I saw countless bonefish that turned out be sticks on the bottom. “Not moving – bottom,” was the guides refrain. When you see a fish and it is moving, you must place the fly in front of him. For that you have to gauge the speed at which the fish is moving. You assume they go straight and try to intersect their line of travel. It is preferable that the fly sinks to the bottom before the fish gets there. The correct weight of the fly  in relation to the depth of water must be spot on.

6. Movement of boat and disturbance from it

I was skeptical about claims that the fish could sense the boat at 60 feet, but I came away a convert. Just by rocking the boat slightly is enough. Once I stumbled slightly and put my foot down a bit too hard and the fish in my sights bolted. This is one moving part we can have control over. Move slow and do not make any noise that is unnecessary. Barefoot on the bow is probably the best option, otherwise wear something soft on your feet.

7. Your surroundings

One needs to pay constant attention to the surroundings because the mangroves will happily eat your fly line if you place your back cast close to them.

How to prepare for a Bonefish trip?

It is tempting and easy to buy all the paraphernalia of fishing and equate that with success. That is not how it works. Most of the “moving parts” above are outside your control. What is under your control is your casting prowess, your movement in the boat, and using correctly weighted flies (get the fly to the bottom before the bonefish arrives). Your casting is by far the single most important point. I have never met a person who casts too well. I have met a lot of fishermen who could improve their casts with simple corrections. You cannot buy a cast!


That’s the way the cookie crumbles….

Neskirkja í Aðaldal

“Hi doctor X! You’ve got free air in your abdomen.” Doctor X is a pediatrician, rotund and florid. He is rather excitable and has a vivid imagination. You often expect him to have a cerebral hemorrhage during a conversation (blow a gasket). He is a great story teller with artistic tendencies, and has good rapport with children and their parents. A bit unorthodox perhaps, but never boring. “I can sell this darling on the internet for you,” he said once when some parents were complaining about their son’s stomach. Well, the doctor had been seen by the surgeon on call, because of an abdominal pain, who had promptly ordered a CT scan because of his abdominal pain. After the examination he&the patient somehow got through the cracks and just went home. The surgeon on call came across the CT later in the day and there it was — free air in the abdominal cavity (which means there is a hole in a bowel somewhere). The surgeon immediately contacted Doctor X and ordered him to come post haste to the hospital. Understandably Doctor X got really scared, and with his imagination racing, thought his days were numbered. He was expected to return within the hour, but time dragged on, and finally he shows up obviously freshly shaven and sporting a new haircut! “Where the hell have you been?” was the first question. “I am certain that I am not going to make it,” came the retort — “that´s why I went to have a haircut and a shave.” Now the surgeon is incredulous “we fix this all the time you idiot” (is that how you talk to a pediatrician?). “No, I am a goner,” he continues, “to be on the safe side I also had my portrait taken by a professional photographer – in black and white for effect. Something for my family to remember me by.”

His treatment was uneventful, and he recovered. Since that time, he has a new found respect for surgeons and thinks we are miracle workers, nothing less. Doctors are a very difficult group to deal with as patients. Especially those who are cynical and meddle in their treatment plans. The only group that is worse is probably the clergy. “It is all in His hand” type of reasoning can get you to a boiling point. “Perhaps He put us here to take care of you” reasoning does not seem to enter their minds.

Neskirkja í Aðaldal

Neskirkja í Aðaldal

At the end of my training I used my vacation to do locum work at my first surgical department. I was a newly minted surgeon (licensed and all), and it was common for new specialists to do locum work in Iceland instead of taking a vacation. The family got to go home to all the relatives, and we got some brownie points for relieving the staff doctors. It was a bit like a dress rehearsal, where we could show just how good we were and also get a feel for working there for the future.

The atmosphere at the surgical department was jovial, and the morale good. The rhythm of the day was to present new patients at the morning meeting. The emergency patients were discussed, and any problems incurring during the last 24 hours were recounted. I had been on call, and we had admitted an old lady with a distended abdomen in the morning hours. She was emancipated and in dire straits, and the bowels were obstructed. What to do? Well, first off you discuss that with your patient. She understood that an operation was very risky, but by doing nothing she was going to die. She still enjoyed life she told me, and we decided on an operation as our only option. The staff surgeons were very negative about this endeavor. One of them of the “It is none of your damn business” fame (see my blog, https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=1811) thought me mad. “Are you going to operate on that mummy?” He went on and on about it. Then there were the anesthetists! “The electrolytes are terrible, the kidney function impaired and my god that heart.”   Well, I honestly love anesthetists and I understand their plight. First, they have to anesthetize such a person, and then they have to deal with the surgeon – at the same time. So, the discussion with the anesthetists on the merits of such an operation, and the risks involved could be interesting. My central argument was always simple. The primary disease process causing all those abnormalities in the electrolytes, etc. was perhaps, and quite likely something that could be reversed. Our philosophy is, if the primary process can be fixed, the secondary problems have a chance of getting better. So, the patient will only survive the operation that fixes the primary problem. We must be very focused on that, and actually try to simplify things (some might call it tunnel vision). If you do not do that you will become mired in minutiae, and you can not do anything at all because it is all so terrible and rapidly getting worse. My arguments carried the day, and the anesthetists got the old lady ready for an operation. I was about to open her abdomen when the door of the operating room banged open, and the surgeon with his walrus mustache barged in.


Dánarvottorð – Death certificate

He was in fine spirits and was holding a pen in one hand and a death certificate in the other  hand (those forms were the only ones we used on yellow paper.) Then he bellows – “When you start cutting – I will start writing!” He really was a lovable scoundrel.

There you go – what an auspicious start to an operation. By that time, I was getting to know him and I suspected that he was only “weighing my cojones,” so I did not get too rattled. All this black humor is a coping mechanism in a stressful environment. The operation was easy, and I found the suspected incarcerated femoral hernia, which was easy to fix. This lady recovered nicely and was duly discharged.

I sit here alone on the banks of the river

The lonesome wind blows and water runs high

I can hear a voice call from out there in the darkness

But I sit here alone too lonesome to cry

The Lonesome River – Bob Dylan

For doctors the river is constantly there. Our lives are lived on the banks of the river. Sometimes our toil is to prevent early departures and sometimes it is to help people to navigate across. We might as well fish it while we are at it!


Hrútafjarðará og Síká

Hrútafjarðará (á – river/stream) is a two hour drive north from Reykjavík. The lodge there is one of the nicest in Iceland with self catering. The river is fished by 3 rods and is fly only. Most of the pools are easily accessible by any car. For the upper parts of the river some walking down into the gullies is required, but nothing too strenuous. For over 20 years the river was leased by R.N. Stewart, author of Salmon Rivers of Iceland.

Réttarfoss - Salmon can not navigate this one

Réttarfoss – Salmon cannot navigate this one

His description is spot on –  “The Hrútafjarðará from the Réttarfoss north, is a delightful mixture of rocky gorges, open flat pools, swirly pools, fast runs, still pools and then opening out for the last two miles into a flat plain of gravel and pastures with several excellent pools until it reaches the long narrow fiord leading to the Arctic Ocean.” The catchment area for the river and its tributary Síká is 367 km².  This river system is fed by a myriad of rivulets coming together (a spate river), and as such the water levels will fall and rise in harmony with the local rains. Each river  has a waterfall in its course stopping the salmon’s ascent. Hrútafjarðará has 9 km of bank length and Síká 3 km. The rivers have 42 named pools and between 200 to 700 salmon per year are caught there.

From Réttarfoss (foss – waterfall) the river flows straight north through rocky gorges. The pools and holding places do not change in this part but the water level does. The salmon will concentrate in the deeper pools during a drought, and spread out when there is more water. The pools between the old main road bridge and the ocean course through gravel beds, and here the channels and holding places are at the whim of the water and the flow.

Trophy arctic char

Trophy arctic char – from the lower part

The gravelly river part also holds some trophy sized sea-run char. The lowest part is tidal, and during high tide that is the place to be. I love catching the arctic char whenever I can find them. The trophy char are every bit as strong as the salmon and fight hard. Síká is similar to the main river but smaller, with the stream coursing through a rocky gorge for most of its length. Síká joins the main river about 1 km from the sea. On this trip we did not fish the Síká because of low water.

#14 - #16 Salmon flies that work

#14 – #16 Salmon flies that work

Now for the fishing – it was just phenomenal! The river is gin-clear and is just perfect for the tiny flies that we like to use. When you swing those, the takes are exciting (beginners will  experience rectal spasms). In addition to those we mostly used small unweighted black tubes. There were salmon in all parts of the river, and they were duly caught. There are maybe 1-2 pools where something heavy is useful.

Gosi with his first salmon

Gosi with his first salmon

In Iceland we call the first salmon a person catches his/her “María salmon,” and that salmon will stay with you forever. One such salmon was caught by master Gosi (his nickname – Pinocchio!). His father calls him that, and everybody falls in line (Johny Cash´s  “A boy named Sue” comes to mind?), his real name is forgotten even by his kin, but his smile is infectious and well earned……..

Gosi with his first salmon

Gosi with his first salmon

…. before he realized that tradition dictates that he eats its adipose fin. This is an ironclad rule in Icelandic angling circles.

Réttarstrengur - upper part

Réttarstrengur – upper part

The pool Réttarstrengur is a long chute, and the salmon are stacked up under the hill in a long line. If they just stay put it is very hard to spot them, but they are there. Then they give the game away by jumping, and we duly note that.

Salmon - upper part

Salmon – upper part

This one moved in the current at the top of the pool, giving his position away, and Sibbi caught him.

From the middle part

From the middle part

From the middle part

From the middle part

From the middle part

From the middle part

Fish on - from the middle part

Fish on – from the middle part (broke off)

Salmon - from the middle part

Salmon – from the middle part

Fish on - from the middle part

Fish on – from the middle part

The middle part pools are just incredible – the scenery – the solitude and the clear water makes for an unforgettable experience.

Sibbi fishing the Sírus pool

Sibbi fishing the Sírus pool

The pool Sírus is magnificent but did not produce this time. Note how Sibbi is using the rock to be invisible to the fish.

The flat gravelly part from the lodge

The flat gravelly part from the lodge

Fish on - lower part

Fish on – lower part

Salmon - lower part

Salmon – lower part

Lowest part - gravel bed

Lowest part – gravel bed

In the valley bottom the river courses through gravel, and the pools are constantly changing. Here in addition to the salmon you can find the arctic char. In the open you will have to contend with the wind, but in the gorges the wind is not a problem.

This river is just a wonderful place place, and I will always welcome the opportunity to return.