Written by: Jeremy Kehrein, Sporting Travel Program Manager for Orvis Adventures
Last month, I hosted an expedition trip to a river in northwestern Mongolia with Fish Mongolia and four other anglers. (The outfitter does not want to name the river to protect it from overfishing.) This was an experienced group: everyone had been to Mongolia before, and one angler was making his fifth trip for taimen. The season runs from June through September, so we were right in the middle, when the high waters of runoff have subsided. The 20-mile stretch of river we would focus on hadn’t been fished for a month, so we were feeling pretty good about our chances of finding some great fishing.
Just getting to the river is half the battle, when your goal is to chase taimen in remote Mongolia. After a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Ulaanbaatar to the small city of Moron (yes, Moron) and a six-hour ride to the camp, we woke up the next day and waited for the camels and horses to show up. Then we spent three hours on horseback before reaching our first camp, about 20 miles from the Russian border.
We fished that afternoon, and within the first hour, Mark Storer caught a great taimen, so we were pretty excited for the fishing ahead. For the rest of the expedition, however, the fishing was tough. It was unusually windy and cool at times, but the river was in perfect condition, so no one can figure out why we were not more successful in landing taimen. It’s gorgeous freestone water, and the guides told us that you can find taimen in almost any part—riffles, runs, or pools. We hiked and waded about six miles per day, and using two-handed Spey and switch rods to cover the water
Though we struggled to find hungry taimen, there was plenty of action for lenok trout and grayling, and we caught some really nice-size fish, which helped keep spirits up. These gorgeous, spotted fish (Brachymystax lenok) inhabit the same kinds of “trouty” water where you’d find browns here at home—close to bank and in seams and riffles.
This is really a trip for anglers looking for a lot of adventure and contact with the local people. Because Fish Mongolia hires the local nomads, we had daily contact with the people who live near the river. Sometimes they wandered down to see what we were doing, which led to some special moments. We hiked quite a bit and were pretty exhausted at the end of the day, but the cultural experience was spectacular.
It certainly helped that the guides, service, food, and tent accommodations were about the best you can get for riding in about 20 miles via horseback. We had hot showers, coffee was delivered in our tents each morning before our breakfast, and they always had drinks and snacks for us when we arrived back at camp. The meals were quite good and there was always a fire in the kitchen tent, so our waders and clothes were dry before the next day.
At the end of the expedition, everyone said they were glad they had made the trip. This is definitely a destination for active, proficient anglers who can hike—proficiency with two-handed casting is a plus–and are looking for a great cultural experience in middle-of-nowhere Mongolia.