Mongolia Sweetwater Taimen Trip Aug 29-Sept 6, 2016 Trip Summary: When I was in the 8th grade, I did my VIP report and listed under my “hopes and ambitions” section that one day I would go to Mongolia and fish for Taimen. At the age of 45, I religiously thought about those Taimen for 30 years before finally making the trip a reality. For whatever reason, Mongolia has always been on my short list of places I’ve wanted to visit, but something about this mysterious corner of the globe seemed so daunting and unreachable that logistically the anxiety of planning the trip always froze me in my tracks. When we arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on August 29th, 2016, my anxiety seemed to be well founded. At first we heard the water was high and muddy due to lots of recent rain, and then as we sat in the airport delayed on taking off for the lodge, rain pounded down on the sheet metal roof of the airplane hangar while dark clouds threatened us from overhead. Right when all seemed lost and it looked like we would be heading back to our hotel rooms in the city, the sky parted and the pilot rushed in to tell us we were going to be leaving in the next five minutes. Flying through the clouds over the barren Mongolian Steppe was nerve racking. I don’t know if it was fear of what we couldn’t see beyond the misty gray rain clouds that splattered the windshield of the plane, the sight of the pilot reading a manual on how to land the plane, or the fear of turning back and being thwarted from reaching our final destination. It was a rush of relief when we finally broke from the dark heart of the storm to see our destination coming into view – a brightly colored village lying on the banks of the Eg River. We did a low pass buzzing the grass field to see if there were any cows grazing on the runway and careened to a bouncing stop as the villagers rushed out to greet us. The experience of getting here was surreal and it really was quite emotional to finally be so far away from home in a place that had been dreamt about for 30 years. In that instant, like the popular cliché, the clouds parted shining bright rays of sunlight onto the plane and I felt a rush of confidence on what lay ahead of us. After an hour drive in 4x4 vehicles, we finally arrived at Sweetwater’s Taimen camp along the banks of the Ur River. The first thing everyone in our group did was walk right over to the river to see the rumored poor conditions. The river was high, flowing up in the trees and had a dark muddy tea color to it. Being accustomed to fishing for Steelhead when conditions present two feet of visibility and having hit similar conditions on a trip to Kamchatka Russia where we still caught quality rainbows after the river rose two feet in a day, I actually felt optimistic. Later my hopeful spirit would be confirmed when the guides took us out for an hour before dinner and I had one tug on a streamer and saw another Taimen shadow and flash at my surface fly. The next morning greeted us with sublime weather, and in fact the entire rest of the trip had the type of weather you can only dream about when planning a trip of this nature years in advance. In short what we had is what every diehard steelhead fisherman dreams of – stabilizing weather and a dropping river. I think you know the rest of the story! To sum things up, the fishing was fantastic. The first day of fishing Diane and I caught 5 Taimen and I landed one big one around 37 inches that crushed my top water fly and jumped several times out of the water. I had my Taimen photo I had dreamed of and a smile ear to ear and the pressure was off. The next day we caught 7 including a rare double. Taimen are notoriously territorial and personally, I think my big one came to eat Diane’s little one, but that is just speculation. The next day, we went 0 for 7 with crushing attacks on the fly, but nothing landed. Curiously each day as the water dropped and cleared the ratio of hooked to landed Taimen dropped too. On the second day of our trip, we had visited a historic Mongolian Monastery that had been burned down during the Russian occupation and only recently rebuilt with the assistance of Sweetwater Travel. I made the mistake of NOT spinning the good luck wheels like Diane did, and I was starting to wonder if my luck had run out. The next two days saw Diane land Taimen and I lost my mind missing them on the hookset or having them come off. I farmed 10 straight Taimen before ironically landed 2 more in a row right in front of the same Monastery while brightly colored swatches of blue and yellow fabric flapped in the breeze symbolizing my luck had changed. As our trip was winding down, Diane’s luck from the temple visit finally paid off with her landing the 2nd largest Taimen of the week, a giant 44 inch monster that attacked her surface fly. It was only a few inches shy of the big fish of the week which was 46 inches, and grew admittedly with a wink of the eye by the lucky angler Louis Sacks from South Africa. After making peace at the Monastery, I finished my last day with 2 landed Taimen and then hiked the river before dinner landing 2 more. In the end, I believe Diane landed around 7 for the week and I landed 14 which far exceeded my wildest expectations for the trip. Mongolia is a place of beauty and the huge sky, pastel sunsets and infinite starry nights did not disappoint. It has a serene pastoral landscape that defies the brutal winters and harsh conditions that prevail most of the year. The people were bright and friendly and we encountered inquisitive locals who waved, or came down to see us as we fished. Some seemed to step right out of the history books into the present day. For any steelhead fisherman, Taimen are the Holy Grail. When you read the water, it feels like you are fishing for steelhead, but the top water take is similar to when a striped bass hits a large top water plug. The wildcard is these fish can and are lurking in the shadows and a few exceeding 60 inches are landed by lucky fly anglers every season. I am often asked by acquaintances, family and friends which trips I would repeat based on the different destinations we have visited. This trip is in the top 5 trips we have ever done and Sweetwater does a great job of handling the logistics and running a first class operation.

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