This wasn’t our first trip fishing for Taimen in Mongolia. My husband Lee and I had fished with Sweetwater Travel Company in Mongolia in June of 2008 with great success. We each caught a fish over 50″, which may have been world records, so this time we decided we would come prepared to record any monster we might catch, knowing very well that a repeat of our luck on the first trip was not too likely. Frontiers had booked this June 2010 trip and helped us plan a follow-on itinerary through Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Mongolia is an interesting country with beautiful women and changeable weather. We arrived in Ulan Batar through Seoul, Korea, and had planned a day of recuperation before heading to the camp on Monday, but found that we would be flying to Moron on Sunday, the next day, and then driving over the mountains to reach the camp, actually adding one day of fishing to our trip. Weather did not permit us to fly into the closer Erdenbulgan. We left UB in 85° weather and were surprised when the flight attendant said the temperature in Moron was about 38° and sleeting. New snow had fallen in the mountain passes and the almost non-existent roads were even more difficult to follow. After five and a half hours of driving, we arrived in camp past midnight to warm soup, cold beer, and a group of fishermen enthusiastically talking about taimen. Charlie, one of our guides, had photos on his computer of the 53″ taimen Lee caught in 2008 and the 57″ I caught that trip with him as our guide. Our ger was cozy and warm when we finally entered it after talking late into the night.
We knew the program: don’t get up too early, as one of the Mongolian camp staff will silently enter your ger about 6 a.m., re-light your wood stove; letting you wake to a warm ger and hot water in the tank; coffee ready by 7; breakfast at 8; guide and river assignments; get your rods setup and head for the river. Rigging rods the first morning took a little time, and Charlie loaned us an additional rod so we could each have two taimen rods, one set up with Jim Teeny 300 sinking line and one with floating line as well as two six weight rods set up for grayling and lenok. Our guide for the day, Gana, put a white, green and red streamer on the borrowed eight weight rod I was to use with my favorite 3N Abel reel, set up with a 16 lb. tippet . Lee made certain we had the certified scale, a tape measure and cameras in the boat.
We didn’t get to the confluence of the Eg and Ur Rivers until almost 1:00 p.m. The Ur River is a wide slower flowing river that ends where it meets the Eg, which is a fast flowing river that comes out of Lake Hovsgol to the northwest. Gana set us up so that we were anchoring, casting, drifting, with me near the motor casting to the Ur and Lee near the anchor, casting to the drop-off on the Eg. After six or seven minutes I had a good strike, but it got off. Another six or seven minutes and another good strike but couldn’t keep it on, either. Well, I was getting nervous that I was doing something wrong, but Gana reassured me that I should just keep fishing. Another six or seven minutes, another strike and it did not get off! When this monster surfaced we all gasped at the size of the huge circular jaw and the gleaming white throat, reminiscent of the great white in Jaws. Two more times it surfaced, shaking its head, trying to spit out the fly as we drifted and Gana guided us to shore. I remained in the boat, while Gana successfully netted the fish from shore on the second try. A 30 minute battle. Thought my reeling hand might fall off. What elation! 58 inches long, 24.5 girth, 47.5 weight. If accepted by IGFA, a new world record!
The rest of our week passed with more “normal” results, Lee had several taimen in the 30 and 40 inch range, while I was relegated to catching some of the smallest taimen ever seen, including one about 19″ as part of a Mongolian Grand Slam (taimen, grayling and lenok in one day). On the afternoon of the last day, we drifted with our guide Bayaraa through the same water at the confluence of the Eg and Ur where the monster (and a number of other good fish) was caught, this time Lee casting to the Ur and me casting to the Eg, my fly occasionally hanging up on the rocks along the drop off. Bayaraa was about to come help me get my fly off another rock when I sensed some movement, another rock? movement, a fish! When this taimen surfaced, we could see the entire body and a beautiful, huge, red-orange tail. Bayaraa guided us to shore where we landed a 50″, 36 lb taimen. What a way to start and end a trip!