Written By: Michael Caranci, Mongolia River Outfitters
Taimen may technically belong to the trout family, but they certainly don’t act like it. You won’t find these fish lazily sitting on the bottom waiting for a caddisfly to roll by, or daintily sipping size 22 Tricos from the surface film. Taimen are hunters, constantly cruising up and down the river in search of prey, which is primarily composed of other fish, but can include anything from birds to snakes to rodents. They are not picky at all, but that doesn’t mean any fly will do. On the contrary, taimen flies need to be designed in specific ways to best suit this fish’s unique physiology and behavior.
Perhaps the most important component of a good taimen fly is the hook. The best hooks are sturdy enough to handle a fish that could be five feet long, and sharp enough to stick inside the taimen’s notoriously hard mouth, which is more akin to a tarpon than a trout. All hooks must also be barbless, and only one hook is allowed per fly, according to local regulations designed to protect this valuable species. The final consideration is hook size: most taimen flies are tied on hooks ranging from 1/0 to 5/0. Any smaller, and you risk insufficient holding power, while larger hooks needlessly increase the risk of damaging these sensitive salmonids.
Speaking of hook size, one common misconception is that large flies are required to catch large taimen. Yes, a taimen will most certainly eat a 10-inch-long fly, but these opportunistic feeders will just as likely eat a 3- to 4-inch-long streamer. And casting a smaller fly all day long is far less likely to cause tendonitis. So a complete taimen fly box should have an assortment of sizes represented, from smaller flies, to medium-sized patterns in the 5- to 7-inch range, to a few obnoxious concoctions that stretch to even greater lengths, just for fun.
Finally, keep in mind that taimen tend to look up and move upward when they feed, so there’s no need to add much weight–if any–to most of your patterns. We use floating lines most of the time, and a lot of surface flies to get the taimen’s attention. And while gaudy colors can work, the taimen flies we use are either light-colored–to imitate the trout that taimen typically dine on–or dark-colored–to cast a silhouette as a rodent or other prey animal struggling in the current might. Needless to say, the moment when a taimen attacks a surface fly is not something one soon forgets.
Michael Caranci is head of guest services for Mongolia River Outfitters. For more information on fishing in Mongolia, CLICK HERE or call Orvis Travel’s Jeremy Kehrein at 1-800-547-4322.