I flew to Mongolia through Seoul and spent a few days in South Korea with my brother (who lives there) and his family. From there I took a Mongolian Airlines flight to Ulaanbataar (UB) - the capital of Mongolia. Mongolia has a population of almost 3m and about half of them live in the capital. Of those living in UB about half again still live in the traditional round ger's. its a crazy, mismatched city of new construction, crumbling soviet era concrete buildings and bad traffic. This was the view from my hotel room.
Interestingly this was the balcony of my hotel room - needless to say I didnt use it.
After a day in UB we took an internal flight about 300miles northwest to a town called Muron within 70 miles of the border with Russian siberia. As you exit the airport this is view. Thats right - the dirt tracks run right up to the airport entrance. Outside of that there is absolutely nothing!
Our rides were waiting at the airport (thankfully not horses)
And so began a 7hr journey on dirt tracks over mountains and valleys to get to the first camp on the river. Here are the views on the way
We made a beer stop in a small village where we also needed to pick up our permits for the river. We also had to pass through a military checkpoint but I wasnt allowed to snap pictures there. Some of you may recognize the dude in the shades.
After a long journey we pulled into camp 1 in the dark. Food, beer and a warm ger were waiting. In this morning we were up early to hit the river. This was my surprisingly luxurious accomodation.
The river we were fishing is called the Delger-Muron. it is part of a large drainage system that eventually flows north into Lake Baikal in Siberia, the largest body of freshwater in the world. The company we went with is called Fish Mongolia and this year they had entered into a partnership with another operator (Mongolia River Outfitters) and so we had guides and camp crew that had been with both companies. We were 8 anglers and 4 guides. 3 of the guides were chilean (they spent the mongolian winter fishing the chilean summer and vice versa) and the 4th was a local mongolian. We fished for 6 days - starting at 8am and finishing between 7 and 9:30pm depending upon the length of the float for the day. It was almost entirely a drift boat fishing trip as we covered 100miles of river in the 6 days. The guides were all excellent.
Here are the boats - really stable and loads of room
The scenery was spectacular - the river was clear and low and every bend on the river presented views like these
So the fishing! There are three target species in this river. The first is the lenok trout. This is a genuine trout but it has an odd low-slung mouth more likea grayling. They can grow well over 20in and they rise to hoppers like they havent fed in weeks. I had several fish leap clear out of the water and then dive down on the hopper. They fight like demons too. The other is grayling. It appeared there were two species in the river - the mongolian and the arctic. The mongolian grayling has a smaller dorsal than the beautiful arctic. We caught many of both, however this is the only place I have been where you put a 20plus inch trout back as soon as you can as its not what you were after! If you dedicated time to the trout and grayling completely you could easily reach a triple digit day if you wanted to.
(Photo Kelvin Ng)
(Photo Kelvin Ng)
Obviously what everyone comes for is the Taimen. You see pictures in all the magazines of monster fish and tales of great fishing. What they dont tell you is the taimen fishing is hard!! Really hard! Firstly the flies are huge - the streamers are 6-8in long and very heavy, tied on copper tubes and many of them with lead eyes to boot. Secondly its a lot of blind casting - i mean A LOT. We probably made many hundred casts a day, all day every day. All of us had hand cramps, blisters and sore joints by the end of it Casting the giant poppers was a relative relief. While were were there the river was considerably lower than normal and much clearer due to little rain. The taimen were spooky and reluctant to eat. The group the week before us only managed 12 taimen all week - we managed 27 with everyone catching at least one taimen. The majority were small though - between 20 and 30". We did have two big fish caught. Here is a picture of Mike Seigman tied up to a 40in fish
He was quite happy when it got in the net!
With very good reason!
My first taimen seemed positively small in comparison!!! However as all the mongolians say "Taimen is Taimen"
Unfortunately I did not manage a big one - my fish were all about the size of the first one. The big ones are there though - I saw them. On the last day we were rowing through a shallow, slow flat when we drifted right on top of a monster. He took off from the side of the boat and pushed a big bow wave right across the river. it was hard to say how big he was but I would not be surprised if it was pushing 60in.
Kelvin took top honors with most fish and the biggest - this stunning 44in beauty.
(Photo Kelvin Ng).
Even if the Taimen fishing was not as easy as we hoped it was still a fantastic trip. We fished hard all day and then laughed hard all evening - it was a great group of anglers and we had a blast. The food was good, with hot meals cooked on the river bank each day by the guides and drinks and dinner waiting for us when we reached the next camp. As this was a float trip everything except the yurts came with us each day. The camp staff would wait for us to leave, then pack down the entire camp from the dinner tent to the latrines, load it all in rafts and then paddle down river to have everything set up at the next camp by the time we got there. It was much more comfortable and well run than I was expecting for sure. We even had vodka tonics waiting for us as we got out of the boats!
Here is a group shot - anglers, guides and camp staff
So all in all an amazing trip - great company, great fishing and a totally beautiful river in wild and still unspoilt countryside. I need to go back to find that big fish. Anyone want to go?