First and foremost, this is a fishing trip, and those interested in fishing for the largest salmonid in the world (taimen) owe it to themselves to travel to Mongolia and fish for these prehistoric beasts. Will you catch a 4- or 5-foot taimen? Who knows, it’s fishing … but each and every day and on each cast you have the chance of hooking a trophy taimen. You will catch taimen, that’s damn near guaranteed and probably more than one for a week’s fishing, and on some days multiple fish will be brought to hand. Yes, the Mongolian people, the culture, the lore of Genghis Khan, the steppes of Mongolia, and the sheer vastness and beauty of the country are added bonuses of the trip, but make no mistake, you travel to Mongolia to catch a big badass taimen first and foremost. The rest is icing on the cake …
Largest Salmonid on Earth:
Hucho taimen is one of five species of taimen and is the largest member of the salmonid family, which includes trout, char, whitefish, grayling, and salmon. Just the idea of fishing in waters where these river monsters are known to eat small beavers, ducks, and gophers is enough to suck most fly anglers in, but casting to the largest salmonid on earth makes it all the more appealing. These ferocious predators grow larger than chinook (king) salmon, and fish as big as 230 pounds and 6 feet long have been recorded. Although most of the Mongolian taimen do not get this big, a mature adult can weigh between 30 and 60 pounds, stretch 5 feet, and be over 50 years old.
Every person we send to Mongolia goes for the fishing but comes back more impressed by the people and the experience. That doesn’t mean the fishing isn’t great, it’s just often overshadowed by the experience of seeing and interacting with the nomadic herders of the Mongolian countryside. You would be hard pressed to find friendlier, more welcoming people. The native Mongolians hold on to their traditional lifestyle of moving with their livestock and are a very self-reliant and hardy people who live entirely off their herd. They take pride in customs and traditions and live and breathe hospitality. Their circular homes, called gers, can be picked up and moved in a matter of hours, and the colorful clothing they wear hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years, as it’s well adapted to the harsh way of life on the high desert steppe. In a time of smartphones, computers, WiFi and a barrage of technology, it is wonderful to spend time with these amazing people, and it often feels like you are stepping back in time when things were simpler and the pace of life was slower.
One of our floats takes you to the birthplace of Genghis Khan, the first Great Khan of the Mongolian empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history. He is considered by many to be the greatest conqueror of all time, and anybody who is interested in history will enjoy the controversy surrounding this legendary ruler, his military accomplishments, and his ability to unite the Mongol confederations. His invasions were often brutal, and he slaughtered millions of people but also granted his captors religious freedom, banned slavery in Mongolia, abolished inherited titles, promoted trade, established one of the first international postal systems, and gained the loyalty of many of the Mongolian people. One of every 200 men alive today is related to Ghengis Khan. To this day, officers in military training study Genghis Khan’s battle movements, especially his feigned retreats and flanking counter attacks.
Culture and Festivals:
Mongolians are known throughout the world as being some of the greatest horsemen and archers in history, and they still celebrate their culture through many festivals and competitions. Naadam is a Mongolian holiday that celebrates horses, archery, and wrestling, where men and women compete against each other to show feats of skill and endurance and celebrate their nation through a beautiful mix of art and sport. Eagle festivals, celebrated throughout the country, are some of the most popular festivals, and they are a must see if you have the opportunity to do so. Traditional hunters share their unique skills and celebrate the 4,000-year-old tradition of hunting small game with eagles. These hunters share a primitive bond between man and bird, and their skills have been passed down from generation to generation. This unique cultural heritage is one of the most popular events to see in all of Asia.
There aren’t many countries as photogenic as Mongolia. From the high steppe grasslands contrasting sky and land to the crystal clear rivers and towering mountains that surround the windswept countryside, it is a beautiful country that is wild and alive. Mongolia is a place that makes aspiring photographers feel good about themselves; you couldn’t ask for a better set up to take pictures, with the dramatic lighting, clear, pollution-free air, and colorful traditional clothing of the locals and the gers. Anywhere you point a camera you end up with jaw dropping photos good enough to hang on the wall.
Fly fishing for giant taimen, warm and friendly people, the rich culture and history, the beautiful countryside, and more makes Mongolia a location every traveling angler should have on their list of places to visit.