Fly Fishing for Arctic Char

Arctic Char

Salvelinus alpinus

Fly Fishing for Arctic Char

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AFTMA 5 to 8


Mostly WF floating lines with a long leader

There’s a simple rule of thumb in differentiating Arctic char from salmon or trout. The latter both have dark markings on a lighter background while char have light markings on a darker background. Beyond that, the color schemes of the stunning char are virtually limitless.

Where can you fly fish for arctic char?

The Arctic char’s geographical distribution is easily explained. As the ice age wound down and glaciers retreated some 12,000 years ago, they left behind these handsome fish in rivers and glacial lakes across the Northern Hemisphere’s upper reaches.

While lake char are handsome fish, you must look to the rivers to see find Arctic char at their visual best. After feasting on the sea’s harvest of sand eels, shrimp, and small fish, they enter fresh water to spawn in the summer months and they wear their best finery for the journey – flame-red bellies in the males and white-edged fins, coupled with an array of colors – pinks, yellows, greens or blues.  

They are found from Alaska and northern Canada to Russia, Britain, Ireland, Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia.

How to fly fish for arctic char

Many of the prime locations for char fishing, such as Greenland or Alaska are remote and largely empty so you must bring everything you’re likely to need with you. Tackle shops could be very thin on the ground.

While you should always seek specific advice from the owners of the fishing lodge where you’ll be staying, rods from 5wt to 8wt should be suitable.

Use a weight-forward floating fly line and rely on sinking leaders if you feel fish are low in the water. Bring plenty of leader with you as Arctic char rivers are likely to have rocky river beds. As the rivers you fish are likely to contain very clear glacial water, long leaders are advisable.

So is patience. Arctic char have been dubbed “the Greta Garbo of the mountains” and it’s as much a tribute to their temperament as their looks. Watching the water bulge as a bunch of them head upstream is exciting but there will be times they take anything you put in front of them and other times when nothing interests them.

They are related to the salmon and brown trout, so you can fish for them in similar ways and expect a similar fight if you hook one.

As the name suggests, these fish relish cold water, so focus on any deep holes just downstream of a white-water stretch that oxygenates the water. You may also occasionally find them on the shallow edges of calm pools.

What are the best flies for arctic char?

Atlantic char love dining on salmon eggs, so if the two species are around at the same time, try the Egg Fly or a Glo Bug.

The egg fly is one of the most simple yet effective fly patterns for arctic char
The egg fly is one of the most simple yet effective fly patterns for arctic char

If salmon aren’t present, the char will turn their attention to insects and small fish. For the latter, the Mickey Finn is an ideal impersonator. If you’re fishing smaller streams, try a Teal Red and Silver.

For a more tempting mouthful when Arctic char are taking bugs off the top, dead drift an Elk Hair Caddis past them or a Foam Beetle. If the dead drift doesn’t work with the latter, go to the other extreme and try stripping it across the surface – Arctic char can respond aggressively to foam flies disturbing the surface.

Streamers like the Woolly Bugger or Zonker work well but any streamer patterns with plenty of flashy tinsel in the tail should arouse interest. Some days, stripping a fly through the water (start high and work your way deeper until you locate the fish) will work better; other days, a slow figure-of-eight retrieve will be needed. 

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Locations where you can fly fish for Arctic Char

Lake district

Sixteen lakes from large to small, but rivers as well.

Arctic Char

Atlantic Salmon

Brown Trout





Sea Trout

The wild trout of Southern Norway

So much water and so much trout.

Arctic Char

Brown Trout

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Countries where you can fly fish for Arctic Char

🇩🇰 Denmark

🇫🇮 Finland

🇮🇸 Iceland

🇳🇴 Norway

🇸🇪 Sweden

🇳🇱 The Netherlands

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Flies that you can use to fly fish for Arctic Char

Bunny Leech

Clouser Minnow

Hare's Ear Nymph


Muddler Minnow

Salmon Egg

Shrimp Pattern

Woolly Bugger

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Guides, workshops and more specialized in fly fishing for Arctic Char

Fly Fishers Italy

Italy 🇮🇹



Hooked on Fly Fishing

The Netherlands 🇳🇱



Fly tying

Country trips


Norway 🇳🇴



Fly tying

Other fish


Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Atlantic Cod

Atlantic Halibut

Atlantic Mackerel

Atlantic Salmon



Brown Trout


Common Carp

European Flounder









Rainbow Trout



Sea bass

Sea Trout


Twaid shad

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