Jako Lucas is one of Yellow Dog’s ambassadors, and he waves the blue and yellow flag wherever he’s fly fishing in the world. Part of our two-part series on fly fishing for taimen in Mongolia, Jako was kind enough to give us the low-down. Taimen fishing in Mongolia is a bucket list item for every serious angler. This is an interview you don’t want to miss.
Tell us about the species. What are their habits? What makes this species so unique? What’s the draw to fishing for Taimen? Where will they likely be found in a river?
Taimen are the largest member of the Salmonid family and have been known to reach up to 200lbs historically, but the all-tackle world record is 128lbs.
Taimen fishing is not easy which makes it an incredibly rewarding fish to catch on the fly. In essence, you are also fishing for an endangered species. The big draw is to see a monster “trout.” Taimen destroy a dry fly. I have even had 30inch Taimen get swallowed whole by huge fish!
Taimen are very aggressive predators, but they also like to conserve their energy in the big fast running rivers they live in. They are found in environments with extremely harsh conditions and manage to survive through some seriously cold winters where the rivers freeze over, so they have to eat when the time allows. They can be found in very similar holding water as trout but could be anywhere when they are hunting. I have found 50inch fish in ankle-deep water. As the guide team says out here in Mongolia: they are everywhere, and they are nowhere…
What makes the Taimen fishery of Mongolia, and Mongolia itself special?
I absolutely love Mongolia. It is an amazing fishery that might remind one of Montana, but the only difference is you can find “Trout”/Taimen over 60inch. The Mongolian people are amazing; it is not only a great fishing experience but also a spiritual experience.
How do you fish for Taimen? What are the important tactics, techniques, and tips used for fishing for Taimen?
Well, basically we are swinging flies in a very aggressive manner. Imagine casting a giant squirrel pattern at a 45-degree angle and jigging it across the surface as if it’s swimming or possibly injured. We also use the same technique when fishing a sinking line, but obviously, it is swinging and jigging large baitfish patterns in the deeper pools. You need to be on guard 24/7 as you could have the fish of a lifetime hit your fly at every second. One thing that is also very different to normal trout fishing is that we set the hook with a strip set. If you trout strike a fish, you will loose almost every one of them. We always say set the fly like you want to break your fly off.
Basic gear requirements and recommendations on what to look for?
Ok so here is what I think works best regarding fishing tackle for Mongolian Taimen:
- Rods – 8 to 10wt, 9’0” to 10’0” or if you want to use a spey rod, I would use a 13’0”-14’0”, 8-10wt rod.
The reason why I like a single-handed rod more for Taimen is sometimes the Spey rod anglers miss the opportunities at close range. Furthermore, it’s really difficult to set the hook on some of the long-range casts you’re making with Spey rods. You have to set the hook like for a saltwater fish, by strip setting-which can be difficult if not downright unwieldy with a long Spey rod. Conversely, if you have an injury that inhibits long casts or is inexperienced with casting big flies all day the double handers do help you cover great amounts of water with ease.
- Reels – Matching 8-10wt reels (Because these fish are the alpha predator in the river they will normally swim towards you and try and inspect what is going on. I have had fish make long runs, but typically a very dogged fight and they do jump)
- Lines – You will need one rod rigged with a full floating line and one rod with a sink tip or full sink. (Cortland 450 Deep Salt)
- Leaders – We use 40lbs Maxima Ultra Green for a butt section and 25lbs Maxima Ultra Green as the tippet. The fish are not leader shy, and if you hook a 130cm fish or bigger, you will want to pull hard. I have always kept my leader set up basic with maxima ultra green, as it is damn strong. You can probably use fluorocarbon- I don’t think it makes a difference- it is up to you. Fluorocarbon might affect the floating flies, but again that is all very minimal differences.
- Taimen Flies – We will have everything you need for flies, and we tie flies every night. So don’t stress about it. But if you would like to tie, big squirrels, Game changers, T-Bones, Cyclopes… Basically, Musky style flies, with lots of material, articulations and plenty of material!
Can you run us through a taimen fight?
Taimen have a reputation for being very bad fighters, but I think they are great. They are the alpha predator in the river and once hooked they will go and inspect whatever the reason is for its distress. So this means that they will often swim straight to the boat. Then they might go on a long run and in some cases start jumping. They will also roll, shake their head and try to throw the hook. They are escape artists, and I would say that if you land 50% of your fish hooked you are doing well. Taimen are one of the fish that I am most stressed out while fighting. It is such a relief to get them in the net. So what I do most of the time when I am guiding, and my clients hook a big fish, I will start following it and try to catch it by surprise. I have had rods snap with huge fish that are just impossible to move out of the current.
Give us some basic general info regarding the guides and operations out in Mongolia. How does an angler get there?
Most of the guides have been in the industry and guiding out in Mongolia for a very long time. We also have a few Mongolia guides that would rank among the best guides I’ve worked with. As with many special and wild places, it is a long way to get to. Normally you will fly into either Beijing or Seoul. Then you will fly to Ulaanbaatar. You normally spend one night in UB and then fly to the closest village, and from there you have about a 2-hour drive to the camp. It is a long way for most people, but it is one of the few places in the world where you truly feel that you are away from the normal hustle and bustle of the real world.
What’s the experience of the angler going to be like? How is fishing Mongolia different than other places on earth to fish?
Well as I said before, you are fishing for an endangered species. So every fish is special. It is a place that is definitely worth practicing your casting to give yourself the best chance to encounter one of these amazing fish. You will have a long day with lots of casting and as I also said before you need to be on your game every second. Good anglers will, more than likely, catch at least one fish a day and have a few encounters with big fish. But the best thing to do is to enjoy every moment of the trip. Don’t put pressure on yourself to catch a monster; if you keep at it, it will happen naturally. Remember they are everywhere and they are nowhere…