Janet Veit and Brian Schumacher had been to Utah, the Sierra Nevadas and the East Coast on fly-fishing adventures.
The La Crescent, Minn., couple were on their first international trip this month in Iceland when Veit caught the biggest fish of her life, a 6-pound brown trout, her sister, Patrice Veit of River Falls, Wis., said on Monday.
They died Sunday night while on that trip when Schumacher stepped into deep, moving water and Veit jumped in to save him. Both were swept out into the lake.
"We take odd comfort in the fact that they died together, one thinking they were going to be saved, the other thinking they were going to be the savior," Patrice Veit said.
Patrice Veit received a text message Monday night with the details of what happened from a woman who befriended the couple on the trip.
Members of the group were on the shore and rushed to help them, but the weather was so bad they couldn't reach them in time.
The U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik called Patrice Sunday night with the news but few details.
Their bodies will be flown home. Services will be in La Crescent.
Janet Veit, 48, was a veterinarian at Hillside Animal Hospital in La Crosse, Wis.; Schumacher, 48, was a histologist at Gundersen Health Clinic there. He also was a guide at Driftless Fly Fishing Co. in Preston, Minn. Veit, who had discovered the sport about three years ago, had just been hired as a guide, her sister said. She loved fishing for brown trout and Arctic char.
Veit led a Becoming an Outdoor Woman fly-fishing class at Whitewater State Park in southern Minnesota, and the couple also taught fly-fishing to wounded veterans.
They had two dogs — a Vizsla and a pointer — and two Abyssinian cats.
Veit was the youngest of seven children, born and raised in Mooreton, N.D. She went to the University of North Dakota, then the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. She was drawn to La Crescent and La Crosse by the offer of a job and spent her career there.
The couple met when Schumacher brought his Vizsla to Veit for care.
"They're just your finest, salt of the earth people," Patrice Veit said. "Kind and witty and intelligent. Generous. Loving, passionate about their interests. Accepting. Socially responsible.
"Until they died, I had no idea of the enormity of the network they had helped and supported emotionally and financially and in friendship for many many years."
The announcement of their deaths on their Facebook pages drew hundreds of responses, Veit's sister said.
The couple left for Iceland on May 14 and spent several days seeing the sights. The fishing trip was to last six days and they were due back this coming Saturday.
They were fishing in Villingavatn, near Lake Pingvallavatn in southwestern Iceland. Pingvallavatn is Iceland's largest lake, deep and cold. The water was 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit when they slipped under.
"The Veit family is a loud and boisterous family, and we celebrate each other when we're together and we will always be diminished because one of our voices is no longer here," Patrice Veit said.
Pat Pheifer • 612-673-7252