Iceland Road Trip

I think the email said something like, “Hey Brian, do you want to take a lap around Iceland?” The short answer, “Yes.” So, I met my boss and fishing buddy, Cameron Davenport, in Reykjavik, September 20, 2022. With a 4-wheel drive Toyota truck we started out clockwise, through beautiful farms, fall colors, lakes, mountains, and the ocean. Not truly rare, but greatly appreciated, we drove up the west coast of one of the most beautiful countries in the world under blue skies and no wind. On previous trips, I have watched whales from the two-lane highway.

Our first destination was Deplar Farm Lodge, where we picked up Thorsteinn Gudmundsson, a fly-fishing guide cut from Viking cloth. From Deplar, we drove to the Holkna River, a remote Atlantic salmon river with very light angling pressure. The reason for this is because the whole river is leased by Eleven Angling and guests have the river to themselves. Almost every river in Iceland is private. In year 700, Iceland was settled, and as farms spread out across the island, provisions for parks, sanctuaries, refuges, etc., were not included in the master plan.

Cameron Davenport rigs rods for any, and all kinds of action. On our road trip we fished for and caught
Atlantic salmon, Arctic char, resident brown trout and sea-run brown trout.
These next four photos are from the truck, going 60 mph (love the iPhone!), on the coastal road that goes around Iceland. Beautiful landscapes, farms, and mountains on one side and the sea on the other. 

Iceland does not have parcels of land like in the US, with Forest Service land, BLM land and large national, state and county parks. There are a few public places to cast a fly, mostly lakes, but the salmon rivers are locked up. On most, you can buy a beat for the day, or join a club with access, or be born on the stream itself. Or stay at a fly-fishing lodge where all the access is taken care of.

Hundreds of miles of colorful, lumpy tundra.
A quick stop at a roadside lake where we spotted Arctic char in the small feeder streams.
 A quaint cabin, complete with a natural, hot springs soaking pool, is used by Deplar Farm Lodge guests.
A simple, but very inviting lakeside farmhouse. Notice the rings from a feeding trout on the right hand side.
Ptarmigan flush as our truck approaches a fishing area. I’ve had a smoked ptarmigan appetizer in Iceland, and you should, too!
The upstream waterfall causes salmon to congregate along the cliffs. We landed several salmon here and observed char in the 20-inch range.

There are two cabins on the Holkna River that Eleven Angling books to adventurous anglers who can hike the steep hills along the river and cook for themselves. Mornings and evenings are best in July and August, so anglers take a long lunch break at the warm and comfortable cabins. In September, with the lower sun angle, the salmon chase flies all day long, but a nice lunch break is a welcome luxury.

We stayed several days at the Holkna River Cabins. Two cabins, warm and cozy, on the banks of the Holkna River. Anglers who stay here have the whole river to yourselves. 16 named pools and very good catch rates. With a guide, you go pool to pool, in a 10-mile stretch. Anglers cook for themselves and fish at their own pace. Solitude, great Atlantic salmon fishing and the quiet vacancy of civilization.

Iceland is famous for waterfalls. You can see dozens daily.
Our Holkna River Cabin, gloriously surrounded by the Northern Lights.
For reference sake, this was September 23.

Iceland is the least populated country in Europe, with 353,000 residents, or about the same as Tampa, Florida or Honolulu, Hawaii. Once you drive out of Reykjavik, population 131,000, it’s slim pickings, and I’m not talking about your Tinder account. There are miles and miles of farms and a few small towns which cater to agriculture, commercial fishing, and tourism. We went from that to a river in the middle of nowhere-nowhere. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Driving to pools and hiking in and out was the plan for three days. Great exercise, scenery, and willing fish.
Our guide, Thorsteinn Gudmundsson, aka: Thor, Steinni, Rock… shows Cameron some salmon before the approach.
Named and numbered pools are common in Iceland, understanding the name or pronouncing it is a different story.

Miles and miles of miles and miles. 
Edible blueberries by the millions.

Contributed By

Brian O’Keefe

It is not as easy to ‘trout bum’ around Iceland as it is in the US and Canada, but it is very easy to drive around Iceland and visit incredible natural wonders. Plan your fishing before you leave, it takes a little more organization than in Montana. Actually, I was on a work trip with Eleven Experience/Eleven Angling and fishing and shooting photos is ‘work’. Now, I just have to convince my tax guy. Please feel free to write me at [email protected] for more info on Deplar Farm Lodge and the Holkna Cabins. And see more at


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