European sea trout fishing is in the midst of a rebirth. Though sea trout populations in many of the storied rivers of the British Isles and Baltic Sea region continue to dwindle — sending anglers to the far reaches of the globe in search of sea-run brown trout — in Iceland, sea trout populations have quietly endured. All the while, fishing for the beloved, anadromous fish has inexplicably flown under the radar. But now, thanks to Battle Hill Lodge, the island nation’s only full-service sea trout fishing lodge, anglers have a chance to experience world class sea trout fishing without traveling halfway across the planet to do so.
Vatnamót — which, in English, is perhaps best translated as “rivers crossroads” — is a system of sea trout rivers in southeast Iceland. Comprised of three main rivers — the Skaftá, the Geirlandsá, and the Fossálar — Vatnamót is one of the last northern hemisphere strongholds of sea-run brown trout. Despite more than a half-century of catch-and-kill harvest, sea trout populations in the Vatnamót system have remained healthy and vibrant. And, with the entire system now under catch-and-release management as of 2023, the future is bright. Other rivers in the area, after several seasons of catch-and-release angling, have seen catch rates and average fish size soar.
Anglers visiting Battle Hill Lodge to fish its three-river offering — all no more than a 5-10 minute drive from the lodge — are treated to a diverse array of water types and angling styles. From the small, intimate, waterfall-pocked waters of the Fossálar, to the gravel bars and oxbow bends of the Geirlandsá which evoke images of the famous sea trout rivers of Tierra del Fuego, to the wide expanses the Skaftá where anglers ply “the mix” — the marriage of glacially-tinged and gin clear freshwater — anglers can employ a variety of tactics including swinging and stripping streamers, skating and drifting dry flies, and nymphing.
Catch rates of 2-5 sea trout per day are common, with 5-10 sea trout per day a non-rare occurrence. This past autumn, one angler landed 47 sea trout during a 4 day visit!
LODGING: Battle Hill Lodge is a historic farmhouse that was restored and remodeled to create a welcoming home for anglers in search of southeast Iceland’s sea trout. A mix of classic charm and modern amenities — like radiant heat floors that are a godsend to feet that spent their day marinating in cold, Icelandic river water — Battle Hill Lodge is a relaxed, but refined outpost that offers views of towering cliffs to the west and of an expansive lava field and the Vatnajökull glacier to the east. Most rooms are equipped for double occupancy. The lodge’s three bathrooms are shared amongst the guests.
FOOD/DRINK: Breakfasts match the Icelandic tradition, with eggs, fresh vegetables, cheeses and meats, as well as yogurts, cereals, muesli, and fresh fruit. Boxed lunches are prepared fresh each day for a riverside meal, typically featuring homemade soups, sandwiches, fruit, and snacks. Each night, a hearty three-course dinner is served in the lodge’s main dining room, a mix of local meats, seafood, and pasta dishes.
CONNECTIVITY: The lodge has fast, dependable WiFi and cellular coverage is excellent throughout Iceland. You’ll have service in places you never thought you would.
After a scenic drive along the southern coast of Iceland that you’ll likely never forget, you’ll arrive at Battle Hill Lodge. Settle into your room and refuel with hearty soups and breads from the kitchen. Then, wader up and head to the water for the afternoon angling session and your first taste of the week to come.
The Fossálar River is a small-to-medium, waterfall- and plunge pool-studded river that flows for around 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from its headwaters in a small lake to its mouth where it meets the Skaftá, a massive, glacial river whose origin is the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest in Iceland. The river is famous with tourists for the only one of its many waterfalls that sits alongside a public road, but most of Fossálar’s beauty is hidden from the public eye. Walkable from the lodge, Fossálar is always within striking distance for Battle Hill anglers. Spend whole days or just brief sessions plying the river’s pools and runs for migrating sea-run brown trout. The river is narrow and canyon-lined in some stretches, while in others it spreads its wings and widens into the bucolic meadows that line the river’s banks, allowing anglers to employ a diverse array of fishing styles, including swinging streamers, skating dry flies, and nymphing.
Often referred to as “the jewel” of the Vatnamót system, the Geirlandsá is a shape-shifting river. In its lowest reaches, before its confluence with the Skaftá, the river meanders through a glacial plain, folding oxbow bends around gravel bars, creating a landscape that is reminiscent of coveted sea trout fisheries a world away, like the famed Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego. Near its source, the Geirlandsá flows through a tight, impossibly beautiful canyon. In between, the river features deep runs and tantalizing bend pools as it courses out of its headwater canyon and winds through towering hills on its way to the Skaftá. And you’ll fish it all, expecting to encounter sea-run brown trout all along the way.
Though Vatnamót is often used to refer to the entire system of rivers fished out of Battle Hill Lodge, it’s most commonly used to name the stretch of river where the Fossálar, Geirlandsá, Skaftá, and an array of other smaller tributaries merge and flow 13km (8 miles) before dumping into the north Atlantic Ocean. It’s here, where you’ll cast long lines on single- and double-handed rods into “the mix,” the area where silty, glacial-white waters of the Skaftá mesh with the gin clear flows of the other rivers of the system. Dime-bright, fresh-from-the-sea brown trout hover under the cover of the glacial water, slashing at streamers and other flies swung and stripped through the mix.
Throughout the week, your guides will keep close tabs on the movement of fish throughout Battle Hill's three rivers and their tributaries. And you'll work with your guide to choose your destinations for the days to come based on where the fish are. If fresh fish are entering the system, you'll likely head to Vatnamót to swing and strip flies through "the mix." If yesterday's run has fish pushing up through the system, you may opt to chase fish in the Geirlandsá's meandering bends or beneath Fossálar's waterfalls. With so much water to choose from, the options abound.
If you haven't already, start you day with a hike into Geirlandsá's upper canyon, where you'll fish amongst what may very well be the most beautiful landscape you've ever seen. Skate flies and strip streamers for some of Battle Hill's biggest sea trout. Enjoy a hearty lunch by a waterfall before returning to your rig to head down river to the lower Geirlandsá's lower pools or to Vatnamót, where dime-bright sea trout fresh from the north Atlantic are making their way upriver.
It's your last morning on Battle Hill's incomparable sea trout rivers, so be sure to tick any boxes that you've neglected during the week. You'll fish until 1pm, before being shuttled back to Reykjavik to catch your flight home or for a night's stay in Iceland's capital city. Maybe today's the day to dedicate to surface flies to log your first catch on the surface. Or maybe it's time to try to stretch the measuring tape you found on your pillow at check-in, by dredging deep pools for one of Vatnamót's true giants. Whatever you do, be sure to let it all soak in, because even though you've already started making plans to return next year, 12 months is a long time away.
- Ground transfers Transfers from Reyjkavik / Keflavik to Battle Hill Lodge are included
- Lodging Private single and double rooms with shared bathrooms
- Guided Fishing Daily guided fishing is included
- Meals Three chef-prepared meals per day, plus snacks
- Beverages Non-alcoholic beverages included (beer and wine are available for purchase)
- Licenses Fishing licenses are included
Guests traveling to Battle Hill Lodge fly into Keflavík (KEF) — the regional airport for the greater Reykjavík area. From there, Battle Hill Lodge will shuttle you to the lodge, traveling along Iceland's southern coast. But whatever you do, regardless of how tired you are, don't fall asleep. The ride to the lodge features some of the most stunning vistas you've ever seen, with views of countless waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, and the northern Atlantic.