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The 5 species of grayling for fly fishing in Mongolia

Mongolia is a paradise for fly fishing for Grayling. In Mongolia, there are five different species of Graylings, two of which are endemic: the Mongolian Grayling (found in the Altai Mountains) and the Khuvsgul Grayling, also known as the Black Grayling due to its dark color, which can only be found in Lake Khuvsgul. The other three species of Graylings are the Amur Grayling, the Upper Yenisei Grayling, and the Arctic Grayling with its own subspecies known as the Baikal Lake Grayling.

The five species are as follows:

1. Thymallus Brevirostris Kessler (Mongolian Grayling) in Mongolian is called Mongol khadran:

The Altai Mountains, a range located between Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, host notable biodiversity and are declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to their natural diversity. In this environment, we find endemics like the Altai Osman and the Mongolian Grayling, which holds the title of the world’s largest grayling. This fish inhabits an ecosystem without predators or competitors, which has led to unique predatory behavior, placing it at the top of the trophic pyramid in some rivers and lakes of the Altai. Reaching sizes over 70 centimeters, its prime time for fly fishing is at the beginning of the season (June), when they ascend from the depths of the large lakes to reproduce. It is fished with dry flies, nymphs, and streamers, standing out for its aggressiveness in the attack.

Rivers and lakes where it lives in Mongolia: Khovd, Zavkhan, and Bogd rivers, and Khar, Khar Us, Achit, Tolbo, Airag, Tal, Khoton, Horgon, Dayan, and Huh lakes (Central Asian inland basin).

2. Thymallus nigrescens (Khuvsgul Grayling or Black Grayling) in Mongolian is called Hövsgöl khadran:

Mongolian salmonids, such as the Khuvsgul Grayling, play a crucial ecological role in Mongolia’s aquatic ecosystems. The Hovsgol Grayling (Thymallus nigrescens) is endemic to Lake Hovsgol and is listed as endangered on Mongolia’s Red List. Lake Khövsgöl, located near Mongolia’s northern border with Russia, is the country’s largest lake, representing 70% of Mongolia’s freshwater and characterized by crystal-clear waters with low nutrient levels. In this lake, besides the endemic Hovsgol Grayling, other endangered species such as Eurasian perch, burbot, and lenok inhabit. Also known as the Black Grayling, Thymallus nigrescens can reach a maximum age of 17 years, with females being larger at a given length than males.

Rivers and lakes where it lives in Mongolia: Lake Hövsgöl and its associated rivers.

3. Thymallus baicalensis (Arctic Grayling of Lake Baikal) in Mongolian is called Shiwer khadran:

Within the Thymallus genus, which comprises 15 species, lies the Arctic Grayling, specifically Thymallus arcticus. This species is distributed in Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and the upper Missouri River drainage in Montana. Two subspecies have been differentiated, Thymallus arcticus arcticus and Thymallus arcticus baicalensis. The latter subspecies is exclusive to some rivers in Mongolia and Russia, such as the Selenga and other Baikal tributaries. The Baikal Grayling can reach sizes of up to 60 cm and is characterized by the yellowish color of its tail and its prominent dorsal fin.

Rivers and lakes where it lives in Mongolia: Selenge River Basin, Darkhad Depression, upper Tuul and Orkhon rivers (Arctic drainage), and Khovd River (Central Asian Inland basin).

Fly Fishing Mongolia

4. Thymallus svetovidovi (Upper Yenisei Grayling or Selenge Grayling):

This species of grayling is endemic to the Yenisei River basin, known in Mongolia as the Selenge River. It inhabits the upper part of the Selenge River and its tributaries such as the Chuluut, Ider, Eg, or Delger mörön, among others. The fish’s description includes a solid body with large scales, blackish-gray coloration, white abdomen, and yellowish-brown stripes on the throat. It has crimson red spots on the dorsal fin and burgundy red stripes on the ventral fins, along with a large lilac-colored adipose fin.

5. Thymallus tugarinae (Amur River Grayling) in Mongolian is called Amaryn khadran:

This grayling is endemic to the Amur River basin (Russia and part of Mongolia). In Mongolia, tributaries of the Amur River are found, such as the Khalkhin River, which serves as a border between eastern Mongolia and northern China, belonging to the Manchuria region. Reproduction of this species occurs in late May, and individuals undertake an autumn migration from September to October in search of large pools and higher-quality waters to spend the winter. The fish’s description includes 75-91 scales, a porous lateral line, and a dorsal fin with a wide red to maroon-colored border, accompanied by orange spots and stripes on a laterally compressed body.

Rivers and lakes where it lives in Mongolia: Kherlen, Onon, and Khalkhin rivers; absent from Buir Lake (Amur drainage).

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