Releasing the giant taimen
Liberando al taimen gigante
Sustainable fly fishing in Mongolia. Pesca con mosca sostenible en Mongolia.
IN THE MIDDLE OF WILDERNESS, we might as well have been in some archetypical Patagonian headwater. Its morning, and the river floats us sedately through the Mongolian highlands under an arch of deep blue sky. In these frigid waters, somewhere beneath our drift boat, lurks an ambush predator never to be seen on the likes of Chile’s Futaleufu. This is a river monster powerful enough to rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned fly fisherman.
We are here for the taimen, the world’s largest freshwater fish. This incredible specimen can grow to more than two meters (about six feet) in length and live longer than 50 years. At times cannibalistic, the Hucho taimen, its scientific name, are the aquatic kings of their river dominion, eating not just other fish but small mammals, bats and muskrats, almost anything of manageable size that hits the water. With massive flanks and powerful, serrated jaws, the taimen’s attacks on horrified prey are brutal. This is another being altogether, one that defies comparison with the other members of the salmonid family.
Ever since I first read about this incredible fish as a kid, I’ve wanted to catch one. Now, my friend Klaus and I find ourselves right in the middle of this alluring childhood dream as we drift toward the fishing grounds of the legendary taimen with our guides from Mongolia River Outfitters. To catch a mature taimen will be no simple matter. Their bony, strong mouths are full of teeth that make setting hooks difficult. They have a nerve- wracking ability for tearing apart leaders on boulders or sunken trees. It is more common to have only brief line contact with a taimen, than to actually land one.
This i s also no ordinary fly fishing expedition for another reason. We are casting in the world’s first taimen sanctuary. Established five years ago, the sanctuary extends more than 200 kilometers ( 300 miles), forbids hatcheries and motorboats, and no commercial development of any type is allowed within 3 kilometers of streams. Mongolia River Outfitters limits the fishing