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Fly fishing in Mongolia's Arctic Ocean Basin

The Arctic basin in Mongolia boasts the country’s greatest species richness. Located in the central-north region of Mongolia, it offers opportunities to fish for species of interest to fly anglers such as the Arctic Grayling of Lake Baikal, the Selenge Grayling, the Black Grayling, the blunt-snouted and sharp-snouted lenok trout, the Hucho, and the Northern Pike.

Our fishing trips take place in the rivers and lakes of the Arctic basin:

Fly Fishing Mongolia
TAIMEN & LENOCK TRIP
Fly Fishing Mongolia
FISHING FOR LARGE TAIMENS
Fly Fishing Mongolia
TASATAN TRIBES & FLY FISHING TRIP
Fly Fishing Mongolia
EXPRESS TRIP IN HÖVSGÖL

Introduction

The fish species in Mongolia vary depending on the hydrographic basin. Mongolia is distinguished by three major drainage basins or systems: the Arctic basin, the Pacific Ocean or Amur River basin, and the internal drainage basin of Central Asia.

The Arctic river basin holds the highest number of species in its rivers and lakes, totaling 31 species. Situated in the central-north region of Mongolia, this basin encompasses the Selenge, Orkhon, Tuul, and Shiskhed rivers, along with Lakes Hövsgöl, Ugii, and Terkhiin Tsagaan. It also includes the Bulgan River basin in western Mongolia, which, although currently part of the internal drainage basin of Central Asia, historically belonged to the Arctic basin, and its species are very similar. It can be said that this basin lies halfway between the two drainage systems.

Arctic basin fly fishing species

The species of fish of interest for fly fishing in the Arctic Basin of Mongolia are as follows:

TAIMEN (HUCHO TAIMEN)

Taimen is a fish that inhabits many rivers in Siberia. In Mongolia, it resides in both the Arctic and Pacific river basins. Specifically, in the rivers of the Arctic basin where this salmonid can be found include the Shishhid and Selenga rivers along with some of their tributaries.

Fly Fishing Mongolia

KHUVSGUL OR BLACK GRAYLING (THYMALLUS NIGRESCENS)

The Black Grayling is an endemic fish of Mongolia, specifically found in Lake Khuvsgul and its associated rivers. In Mongolia, this grayling is known as Hövsgöl khadran and unfortunately is classified as endangered on the Mongolian Red List.

For those unaware, Lake Khövsgöl is located in the province of the same name, known as the Switzerland of Mongolia. This lake is home to other species such as the Eurasian perch, burbot, and lenok trout. The Black Grayling thrives in rivers with very low nutrient levels and extremely cold water. Another interesting fact is that it can live up to 17 years, with females being larger than males.

ARCTIC GRAYLING OF LAKE BAIKAL (THYMALLUS BAICALENSIS)

The Arctic Grayling is distributed in Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and the upper Missouri River drainage in Montana. Within this species, two subspecies have been differentiated, Thymallus arcticus arcticus and Thymallus arcticus baicalensis. The subspecies inhabiting Mongolia is Thymallus arcticus baicalensis, which inhabits some rivers of Russia and Mongolia.

This subspecies, known as the Baikal Arctic Grayling or Shiwer khadran in Mongolian, is characterized by the yellowish color of its tail and its prominent dorsal fin. In Mongolia, it is found in the rivers of the Selenge basin, in the Darkhad Depression (Rivers like the Tengis and Shishged flow into the Darkhad Depression, in the Tengis-Shishged National Park), upper Tuul, and Orkhon rivers. The exception to the norm is the Khovd River, which belongs to the internal drainage basin of Central Asia. We deduce that this species is found in that river because in the past, there was some connection with the Arctic basin.

HIGH YENISEI GRAYLING OR SELENGE (THYMALLUS SVETOVIDOVI):

Among the 15 species of graylings in the world, another endemic species found in Mongolia and Russia is the High Yenisei Grayling or Selenge Grayling. The Selenge is the name given to the largest tributary of the Yenisei River, which flows through Mongolia to the Arctic. This species inhabits the upper part of this river and its tributaries such as the Chuluut, Ider, Eg, or Delger Mörön, among others.

The characteristics of this fish are as follows:

  • Solid body covered by large scales.
  • Predominantly blackish-gray coloration.
  • White-toned abdomen.
  • Yellowish-brown stripes present on the throat.
  • Dorsal fin with striking crimson red spots.
  • Ventral fins adorned with maroon-red stripes.
  • Large adipose fin, exhibiting an attractive lilac color.

SHARP-SNOUTED LENOK AND BLUNT-SNOUTED LENOK

In Mongolia, two out of the four species of lenok exist. These two species are the sharp-snouted lenok and the blunt-snouted lenok. They represent two different evolutionary lineages of lenok, characterized by their sharp and blunt snouts, respectively, which differ in the size of their snout.

These species inhabit different rivers, but in Mongolia and in some rivers of Kazakhstan, a very curious situation occurs where these two species live in the same river. In the case of Mongolia’s Arctic basin, this happens in the Selenge River, a tributary of the Yenisei. In these rivers, both species can hybridize, making their differentiation challenging.

Fly Fishing Mongolia

NORTHERN PIKE (ESOX LUCIUS)

Known in Mongolia as Erdiin tsurkhai, the Northern Pike exclusively inhabits the basin that drains into the Pacific Ocean. It can be found in rivers of the Selenga system and in lakes such as Terkhiin Tsagaan and Ugii. This species of pike is not found in the other two basins of Mongolia.

Fly Fishing Mongolia
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