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5D3_5173Having spoken to friend and fellow operator Dan Vermillion from Sweetwater Travel on numerous occasions about their operation in Mongolia, I knew it was a trip I just had to experience first hand. Our busy Indian Ocean schedule, a young family and other work commitments had delayed my visit since my first discussion with Dan, but that changed in early September when, finally, after some lengthy travel, the chartered Caravan banked sharply and began its descent into a breathtakingly picturesque valley. I was finally there and now had six and half of days to absorb the Mongolian wilderness, the Eg and Ur Rivers and hopefully the infamous Taimen (the largest salmonid species) which have put Mongolia on the world’s fly fishing map!

5D3_5079The final drive from the strip (in this instance an enormous open field) into camp on one of these remote trips is often done with reluctance, however this one was both invigorating and interesting! The scenery, a large portion of it along the aqua blue Eg River, only heightening Pat, Tom, Tony and my excitement. Arriving in camp we were welcomed by the guide team, two of whom I have known for some time (both Jako and James starting their careers with FlyCastaway), along with Steve and Ghana (who had driven us into camp). After a very tasty lunch and some tackle set up, we headed out onto the Ur River for our first taste of Taimen fishing. It was everything I had hoped it would be, an expansive yet easily wadeable river, snaking its way though mountainous valleys, which were sporting their early fall colours. Before the day closed out good friend and client Tony Czura had landed our first Taimen of the trip…on a surface pattern dubbed the “The Tuscan Squirrel”! It was a great start to the trip and it was clear we were in a very special place!

5D3_5568The next 6 days of fishing produced more of the same. Every bend of the Eg and Ur rivers providing a pircture perfect almost better than the last, so much so I often found myself staring at the countryside before the urge to tussle with the Taimen shook my casting arm into action. Don’t get me wrong, you work and cast hard for fish, but there are certainly enough to keep you motivated and wanting more, plus these rivers offer anglers the very real chance of hooking and landing a truly enormous Taimen. A true trophy is a fish over 50 inches long, which are likely to be in the region of 25 – 30 years old. Besides the images of some of these monsters circulating in both print and online media, one only needs to glance down at the outboard jet engines on your boat for the day to see where the guides have recorded these special moments, by engraving the size of the fish, the date it was landed and by whom i.e. 52” – 2016/09/14 – Mike Buchanan. On average we received between 5-7 Taimen strikes per boat per day, some days landing a couple of fish amongst us but on others we landed up to 6-10 fish per boat. Most of the fish averaged between 25-29 inches, although each of us landed beautiful Taimen over 37 inches during the trip. Although not noted for searing runs, the spectacular takes as they crashed into a skating deer hair mouse or foam fish pattern is certainly something to behold. This together with the fact that the Taimen is a truly majestic looking creature, has an incredibly hard jaw and is not the easiest fish to stay tight on, makes it a truly special gamefish. A definite attraction from a fishing standpoint 5D3_5097was the style of fishing we enjoyed, large amounts of our time spent wading and casting surface flies, although we did swing some truly monstrous subsurface streamers from the boats when a really deep and fishy pool emerged. It was enthralling! I for one felt you could raise one of these truly magnificent fish on every section of river we fished, such was the amount of good looking water and natural Taimen food (Lenok, Grayling, Mice, Ground Squirrels and Ducks). Both the Eg and Ur rivers are chocker block full of Lenok and Grayling. Lenok are an Asian trout species which are said to be the oldest trout species on the planet, who love nothing more than a skated hopper or other largish dry fly and provide great sport on a 5wt during the lunchtime break or whenever you feel like a bit of change. Many enjoyable moments with our friend “Lenny the Lenok” added some great variety to the week….Pat and Tom in particular harassing them for an hour or so at the end of each evening in the home pool riffle before a hot shower and cold beer called too strongly .

5D3_5330Our truly special fishing moment arrived late afternoon on Day 4 after an already productive day. We were fishing a large slow flowing run from the boat, Tony covering every inch of the bank whilst I covered the open water seam. As we neared the tailout of the pool, the bottom structure came into view, large holes and gutters in the streambed, mixed with some big boulders grabbing my attention. As is his way, Tony calmly covered every inch of the bank side water, the mouse wiggling it’s way down and across before an eruption just behind his fly jolted us out of an intensely silent period. A large surface strike, followed another on his deer hair mouse called the ‘Verminator’ eventually saw his line go tight. I saw the fish roll subsurface and it was clear straight away it was bigger than anything we had encountered or at least had seen eat the fly. Experience, good rod angles, solid pressure and patience from Tony ensued for the next five minutes or so as Ghana manoeuvred the boat expertly towards the opposite bank which was shallow enough to drop anchor and allow him off the boat. The fish fought doggedly and hard, it’s head thrashing violently above the surface on more than a few occasions. Eventually however 5D3_5340Ghana had the right angle on it and slipped the huge net under it, the fear of losing such a creature thankfully faded, instantly replaced by feelings of relief and then joy by all three of us. Tony hopped out of the boat and made his way to Ghana and the fish. Although Tony clearly knew it was a nice fish, i don’t think he had any idea how big it really was. The first significant visual of the fish’s full size was impressive, Tony clearly a little shaken and probably a bit suprised saying “Wow…that’s a really nice fish!”, to which Ghana replied “ No…that’s a MONSTER fish….it’s a MONSTER fish !!!! Great care to look after the fish was taken, as with all the landed Taimen, and I shot a few dozen images to try and do some sort of justice to this incredible fish and fantastic moment. The fish measured 48.5 inches (1.23meters) nose to fork, so not quite reaching the magical 50 inch mark but no one was worried about that and rightly so. It was a magnificent fish, in prime condition and it had fought like any great warrior associated with Chinggis Khan and the Mongol empire. It is a fish I will never forget, with a great client and friend who even before this moment had on more than one occasion told me this trip was for him already a huge success!

5D3_5623Our final two days on the river flew by in the blink of eye sadly, Tom and Pat on one of the days enjoying our best day numbers wise when they landed an incredible 10 Taimen between the two of them, before we all sat down for another tasty meal and couple of cold Borgios’s (a Mongolian Lager) around the comfortable central dining area. The tour had been a great success! In total we had landed 40 Taimen, between the four of us including Tony’s very special fish, but the trip was about a lot more than just fishing. The entire experience, including the incredible rivers and scenery, an extremely well run camp including the unique experience of living in one of the comfortable traditional Gher tents, the tasty and varied meals (the lunch time soups on the rivers were incredible) and of course the extremely warm and hospitable people (including our own private concert by a traditional local band on the final evening) making it a fishing trip and life experience I feel privileged to have shared with some really great friends. So much so I am already looking into dates for 2019!

For more information on this wonderful fishery and experience please feel free to drop me a mail (ryan@flycastaway.com). It’s an adventure every serious angler should try and experience first hand at least once!

Ryan Hammond

 

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