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10 TIPS FOR FLY FISHING FOR TAIMEN IN MONGOLIA

Fly fishing for taimen in the majestic waters of Mongolia is a unique and thrilling experience. These giant salmonids, known as the largest in the world, capture the imagination of adventurous anglers. Here are 10 essential tips to succeed on your next taimen fishing expedition in Mongolia.

1. Know the Specie:

These impressive predators, known as “river wolves,” choose to inhabit the riverine environment throughout their existence. The last healthy populations of taimen in Mongolia subsist in remote locations, while the world’s largest specimens are frequent in the headwaters of the Selenga, Lena, and Amur rivers, located in Siberia and northern Mongolia. The presence of these fish in rivers plays a crucial role as an indicator of the health of aquatic ecosystems.

This extraordinary fish is distinguished by its dark olive-toned head and a striking crimson-colored tail. It is also known by other names, such as the Eurasian giant trout, Siberian salmon, and, in China, as the “daughter of the river god.” Taimen reach sexual maturity between 5 and 7 years of age and can reach lengths of 50 to 60 inches (1.25 to 1.5 m) and live up to fifty years of age.

Before venturing into the exciting fishing for taimen, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the five existing species, highlighting the Siberian taimen (our Mongolian taimen), classified as vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List.

The five species of the genus Hucho are as follows: the Danube salmon (Hucho hucho), the Sichuan taimen (Hucho bleekeri), the Korean taimen (Hucho ishikawae), the Sakhalin taimen (Parahucho perryi, recently reclassified and not considered a true taimen), and, of course, the Siberian taimen (Hucho taimen). All of these species live in Asia, except for the Danube salmon. Similarly, all of them have very limited distribution areas, except for the Siberian taimen.

Recognized as the largest salmonids in the world and one of the oldest species on the planet, taimen used to inhabit various regions such as Kazakhstan, China, Russia, Japan, and Mongolia. Nowadays, they are mainly found in a small portion of Russia and Mongolia. Unlike other anadromous species, such as sea trouts, Hucho taimen do not reach maximum sizes in contact with the sea. The largest taimen are found in non-marine connected rivers, located in remote areas of Mongolia.

Fly Fishing Mongolia

2. Investigate the Best Rivers for Taimen Fishing in Mongolia:

The vast lands of Mongolia harbor some of the world’s most impressive habitats for taimen life. Historically, the sparse tradition of fish consumption, combined with a low human population density and the absence of agriculture or urban development, contributed to maintaining very healthy taimen populations. Unfortunately, the situation is undergoing changes.

In the past, Mongolians avoided consuming taimen due to an ancient legend recounting how hungry villagers survived the winter by feeding on pieces of meat torn from the taimen’s back. However, in spring, the ice melted as an act of revenge, allowing the giant taimen to emerge from the river and devour the villagers.

Mongolia has several rivers popular for fly-fishing taimen; some of the best are:

Onon River: The Onon River is in the Khentii region of Mongolia near the Russian border. It is a tributary of the Amur River flowing into the Pacific Ocean and belongs to the Amur River Basin. The river flows through a variety of landscapes from birch forests to grassland plains and is an important habitat for a variety of wildlife. Species found in this river include taimen, amur trout, grayling, and amur pike.

Selenge Bulgan River: The Selenge Bulgan River is a medium-sized river in Mongolia, located in the Bulgan Province, and it is a tributary of the Selenge River (the largest in Mongolia). Bulgan Province is in northern Mongolia and is one of the country’s 21 provinces. This river is perfect for catching trophy taimen, trophy pike, and lenok.

Eg-Uur River: The Eg-Uur River is a river in Mongolia flowing through the Khentii region and is a tributary of the Onon River. The river flows through a variety of landscapes from birch forests to grassland plains and is an important habitat for a variety of wildlife such as wolves. In this river, you can catch taimen, lenok, and pike in the slow water arms of the river.

Tenghis and Shishkid River: The Taimen Shishkid and Tengis rivers are located on the borders between Mongolia and Siberia, specifically in the Hövsgöl region of northwestern Mongolia near the border with Russia. This location is known to be one of the best taimen fishing spots, but you can also fish for lenok and a variety of grayling with a large dorsal fin.

Delger Moron River: The Delger Mörön River is a river in Mongolia flowing through the KHövsgöl region. This is a tributary of the Selenge River. The best fishing area is the upper part of the river, before the entrance to the National Park. In a wild and virgin territory, the river runs through pastures, wild nature, nomadic herders, and wild coniferous forests.

Fly Fishing Mongolia

3. Search for Remote and Hard-to-Access Fishing Locations:

Taimen thrive in unique and remote environments. Make sure to fish in places where the human population density is low and access to fishing areas is difficult. Although, as we have discussed, the tradition of eating fish in Mongolia was nearly non-existent, in recent years local fishermen have begun to practice fishing and eating fish. This is negatively impacting taimen populations in some rivers of Mongolia.

4. Observe Taimen Behavior

Observing the behavior and hunting patterns of taimen is essential for achieving success in fishing. Some of the most notable patterns include:

  • Taimen are recognized as “river wolves” due to their tendency to hunt cooperatively, forming packs.
  • They exhibit great aggressiveness when attacking, with very hard jaws. If they miss the first strike, they may repeatedly strike the fly against the water, attacking the same fly two or even three times.
  • Their diet is not limited to fish such as grayling and trout; it also includes squirrels, ducks, and mice.
  • These fish undertake extensive movements in search of food, continually moving upstream and downstream. These migrations can cover distances of up to 100 kilometers.
  • The harsh winter conditions in Mongolia, with frozen rivers, force taimen to feed in a brief period. Choosing the months after the thaw or before the onset of winter can increase the chances of success.
  • Like most salmonids, they migrate upstream to spawn in their native tributaries.
Fly Fishing Mongolia

5. Know the Fishing Technique, the Key to Success:

Taimen fishing is primarily carried out in two ways: using large flies that mimic mice or squirrels with floating lines, or employing streamers with sinking head lines. When opting for large dry flies, the technique involves making a rather aggressive cast at a 45-degree angle. Then, the fly is moved with jerks on the surface, simulating its swimming or possibly its wounded state.

Remember, it is crucial to place the fly as if you wanted to break it to attract the attention of the Taimen. In this game, it’s not about making delicate fly presentations in the water, as if you were targeting brown trout.

Fly Fishing Mongolia

6. Importance of the Hook Set and Landing the Fish:

Taimen are highly skilled at detecting any movement on the surface and respond with great aggression, so patience is key to success. Many anglers tend to strike too soon, snatching the fly out of the fish’s mouth. In such cases, it is advisable to cast again, as the fish is likely to attack again. The key lies in continuing to retrieve the line after the attack, waiting to feel the weight of the fish before setting the hook.

In unexpected instances, the taimen may leap completely out of the water upon impact, providing one of the most impressive experiences for a fly fisherman. Once the fish is hooked, a tenacious fight usually ensues, with several eventual jumps. Long runs through the water are less common in this type of fishing.

Another very important aspect to consider is that the hook must be large enough, robust, with a wide gap, and most importantly, it must be very sharp to properly penetrate the taimen’s tough jaws.

7. Choosing the Right Gear:

Rod:

Single-handed rods are the most suitable for fly fishing for Taimen in Mongolia. Specifically, rods with a length of 9’0” and a weight rating of 8 to 10wt are recommended.

Two-handed rods are also effective, especially for shore fishing. If fishing from a boat, they may cause issues with short-distance casting. These rods cause fewer problems with overexertion after many days of fishing. For two-handed rods (spey rods), we recommend lengths of 13’0” to 14’0” with weight ratings of 8 to 10wt.

Both in single-handed and two-handed rods, the balance between power and the effort required during continuous use over a week should be considered. It’s important to avoid tendonitis problems.

 

Reel:

Lightweight reels with good drag systems suitable for lines of 8 to 10wt are recommended. They should have the capacity to add backing.

 

Line:

For Taimen fishing trips in Mongolia, it’s recommended to use two types of lines. We suggest a floating freshwater line for fishing with large dry flies, as well as a sinking tip line ranging from 250 to 350 grains for fishing with streamers. It’s advisable for the floating line to be overweighted with aggressive front tapers to facilitate rod loading and enable casting large flies with less effort.

 

Tippet:

We recommend using quality fluorocarbon in 20, 30, and/or 40-pound tests. This fluorocarbon will be attached to the line with a loop-to-loop connection and will serve as the leader. Another option is to use tapered leaders ranging from 7 to 9 feet with tests of 20 to 30 pounds, which tend to work well.

Fly Fishing Mongolia

8. Select Effective Flies:

For a fly fishing trip to Mongolia, we suggest using two categories of flies:

  • Dry Flies: Despite the surprise factor, for Taimen fishing on the surface, it’s recommended to use large flies that mimic small mammals like mice or squirrels.
  • Streamers: Streamers in white, tan, or black tones are highly effective. It is advised to select sizes ranging from 3 to 10 inches in length. Often, flies designed for pike fishing are ideal for catching Taimen.

Remember the importance of using robust hooks with a wide gap and ensuring they are sharp.

Fly Fishing Mongoliav

9. Know Your Environment:

Expert guides in Taimen fishing often use an expression that says, “Taimen are everywhere and nowhere.” This indicates that when these fish are active, they can feed anywhere in the river. However, fishing becomes challenging when the fish are not active. Despite this difficulty, accurate river reading is crucial.

In particular, large Taimen tend to prefer large pools with nearby shelters and the current entering a pool.

10. Contribute to Conservation:

Taimen is classified as a vulnerable species according to the IUCN Red List, so fish responsibly by practicing catch and release fishing with barbless hooks and contribute to the conservation of these magnificent fish and their habitats. Respect local regulations and participate in preservation efforts.

Fly fishing for Taimen in Mongolia is more than an adventure; it is a commitment to conservation and appreciation of the unique beauty of these aquatic giants.

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