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Casting Giant Taimen in Mongolia - Part 1

Mongolia is perhaps the world’s greatest fly fishing adventure where highly experienced guides will take you in shared boats after the largest Salmonid in the world. In recent years, Taimen over 50 inches have been landed consistently and several records have been broken. With recently renovated traditional Mongolian gers, there's no better place in the world to get a trophy Taimen on a fly rod! Taimen grow to immense sizes and hammer flies with a predatory aggression unlike any other freshwater fish.

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Traveling anglers return year after year to Mongolia’s remote streams to experience the challenge and joy of Taimen fishing.

As a passionate fly fisherman, Mongolia has been in my radar for a long time. I can’t believe that finally my dream has come true. The main reason why I was really eager to go was the famous Taimen, which is a unique specie to fly fish, a trophy for any fisherman. After many years, I found the best time and my dear friend David Wampler and I embarked on a fishing trip to Mongolia, where we met the Vermillion brothers, Dan and Pat, who run an amazing operation with two lodges: the upper camp and the lower camp in the Üür River and the Eg River, respectively. This area is located in the northern-west part of Mongolia, very close to the Russian border and very close by to the very famous Khövsgöl Lake. 

Taimen Fly Fishing  

One of the world’s most incredible dry fly experience is undoubtedly Taimen fly fishing.  Every Taimen you encounter – whether you miss it or land it – will create a lasting memory.

Taimen are the ultimate mega-trout. They are the largest member of the Salmonid family. Mongolian taimen can live for nearly fifty years and reach sixty inches (1.5 meter) in length. Taimen caught on the fly generally measure between 30 – 40 inches (.75 – 1 meter).  Anything over 40 inches (1m) is considered trophy class.  

Taimen are beautiful fish.  They have stunning coloration.  Taimen are also ferocious predators.  Their main diet is “small” fish and they do take well-presented streamers.  That’s great fun, but the amazing thing is that Taimen feed on the surface.  They will nail beavers, ducklings, gophers, and mice.  Taimen will aggressively – and we do mean aggressively – destroy surface flies.

Taimen will absolutely explode on the fly, sometimes coming completely out of the water on the strike. On witnessing this impressive smash and grab many anglers pull too soon and miss the hook up.  The trick is to keep stripping until you feel the weight of the fish, then set the hook.  If you miss the first strike, slam the fly right back on the water.  That big, angry and very frustrated taimen will frequently come right back around and absolutely hammer your fly on the second, third or even fourth try.  These taimen will often go airborne.  Like a big tarpon, they will tail walk along the river’s surface. In skinny water, they will rocket across the river for greater depths.  The four-foot long predator on the end of your line will charge around the pool, bore deep and shake its head violently like a very, very big brown trout.

Mongolia likely has the world’s healthiest taimen populations.  We catch and release hundreds of Taimen annually.  Due in part to conservation efforts, the fishing has never been better.  Every angler definitely has a chance to catch a trophy fish.  However, taimen fishing is not easy.  These fish are big, old and smart.  A guest may have a double digit day.  The next day the weather turns and the fish get very finicky.  This is epic scaled fly fishing at its purist form.  It’s a mental and physical game. This is where you get a chance to test the convergence of your skill, luck and angler’s optimism.  If you come to Mongolia prepared for a wonderful angling challenge and celebrate every fish, you will have the fly fishing trip of a lifetime and you will want to come back for more!

The fishing is a combination of drift boat and wade-walk.  This is a great river for both single and double-handed rods.  The single-handed rods are used from the drift boats.  The double-handed rods are generally fished from shore, but some guests use switch rods to great effect from the boat.

The special thing about the Taimen is that it is probably the best Salmonid that we can get on a fly rod and it is a very old and historical fish which is rare to find anywhere else in the world. Like I mentioned before, it could be find mostly in Mongolia and Russia. The fishing is not easy. We’ve used rods number around 8 or 9 and mostly floating and it could also be sinking lines and the other thing that is important to realize is the season is quite short to fish Taimen: it goes from the last week of August to the first week of October: this is specifically 6 weeks of fishing for a limited number of fly fishermen. 

Lenok Fly Fishing

Another fish that you will surely catch in Mongolia is the Lenok. Siberian trout (lenok) are a beautiful fish. They have golden bodies, bright red bands and black spots. Throughout the fishing season, these native trout feed aggressively on the surface.  They wait along banks and beneath willows to slurp the abundant grasshopper, mayfly and stonefly hatches.  A large Siberian trout will happily destroy a mouse pattern skated across a shallow run or behind a rock.  They will smash bead-heads dropped beneath riffles.  Their behavior reminds many anglers of cutthroat trout, charging up from the depths of crystal clear water to slam petite flies.

Our Own Experience 

We planned a fly fishing trip to Mongolia with a couple a friends and especially with my very good friend David Wampler from Kerrville, Texas, Dennis, Marcus and Claire from the UK, Tom TDM, and two friends from Japan that we first met at the lodge, Ichiro and Satoishi. All of them are expert fly fishermen and they have been fly fishing all around the world: they’ve been in North America as well as in South America and in the Caribbean. It was really awesome to spend a week with them. We could exchange opinions about river, lodges, guides, outfitters, etc. Anyway, it was an amazing week. We spent like 6 days and a half in the water, in sum 7 days in the Mongolian camp. 

Taimen Camps

The camps are located on nice stretches of river in the remote outback of Mongolia. They are strategically positioned to enable fishermen to access over 90 combined miles of river by jet boats. These are isolated wilderness facilities with very limited access to the outside world, which enhances the fishery and the adventure experience. Our fishermen have provided glowing reports about the standard of service and level of comfort at the camp. Each camp is equipped with a dining lodge, bathhouse and shower facility.

Our camps are surrounded by exceptionally beautiful mountains, hills, and valleys. From our lodge, you can hike or horseback to see the Mongolian outback. Mongolia is one of the few Asian countries that still enjoys robust wildlife populations, and you will encounter elk, deer, and wolves while you are exploring the area around camp. We encourage all of our guests to visit the local villages and families during their week. Each camp is staffed with a translator who can accompany you to experience a day in the lives of a Mongolian family. Additionally, near both camps, there are significant Buddhist landmarks with a monastery upstream of the upper camp and an incredible shrine near the lower camp.

The camp has 5 tents and it is located on the side of the great Uur River and it is an all-in camp. It is charming and beautiful. In Mongolia these tents are called GERS.  

A ger is our traditional round shaped dwelling that has been used since the Mongols started nomadic life with animal husbandry.

The gers are comfortable and they have room for two beds, a table and they have a fire pit inside. The camp also has very good accommodations in general terms. I would say that it is okay, it is good enough but it could be better. I mean, for instance, they could put a porch in front of the river where people could sit and just have some drinks and do nothing. The camp has a nice area for dining and breakfast but it does not have any casual bar to chill out at the end of the day. We all agreed on the fact that the people that run this place should consider this.  

The area is very clean and well maintained. The staff of the lodge is very kind and polite. The manager is Ghana. He has been more than 16 years in this place and working together with the Vermillion brothers in Mongolia. He is kind of the guy that runs the operations and also guides in the water. 

In the kitchen, there is a magnificent local staff. Though the food is not sophisticated, it is very well-prepared and beautiful arranged. You can have food from Mongolia that is customized a little bit for foreigners.

Nobody has any complaint about the food and we all believe that the service was okay. You should not expect here a high quality luxury lodge and attention to details, just because this is basically a fly fishing camp and they run it exactly as what it is. 

Something we complaint about is that they should have more ice machines, they actually put the drinks on the water to cool the drink and that is not enough. They got new beautiful Yeti coolers that would be amazing to put ice there but they use that to carry staff, which is okay but I think that they could have like a wood box for carrying the food for the lunch time and use the Yeti cooler for keeping the drinks really cold. It has kind of the same issue on the lodge that the fridge does not cool the beers properly. There is no much variety of drinks at the bar, you should carry your own drinks. Everybody had their own drinks and you should know how many drinks you will have to buy because once you are there at the camp, you will not have access to any kind of market or mini market or whatever. So, you know, I recommend you be aware of this. This is a remote area, driving from this area to another takes about two or three hours. 

This is just the beginning of an amazing journey... 

Stay tunned for part 2 and for a lot of fishing action! 

 

Pablo Aguilo

Pointer Outfitters 

 

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