Mongolia Fall 2014 Taimen Fishing Report

Photo 1Another season in  Sweetwater Travel Company’s Mongolian Taimen Camps is in the books.  After last season’s high water and tougher fishing, this year the taimen population on the Eg river proved to be healthy and resilient.  With perfect river conditions and stable weather, the 2014 Fall season reminded us why this truly is the world’s best taimen fly fishery.

Photo 2Week 1:  Arrival

This season, I was joined in the lower camp by Oregon homey and second-year taimen guide, Matt Carter, South African Seychelles veteran, James (Jame-o) Topham, Big Fish Bayaraa, and Ganzorig.  Matt, Jame-o, Bayaraa, and I decided to take Bayaraa’s jeep for the 13-hour drive out to camp from Ulaan Baatar.

Photo 3Along the way, Bayaraa shared his local knowledge of safe potable water sources.

Photo 4Once into the countryside, we climbed into the mountains and bounced our way over several increasingly “rural” passes.

Photo 5Which is not to say that there wasn’t any traffic.

Photo 6As we finally rolled into camp, the boys shook off the long drive by flexing their tenkara rods (newly acquired from the “black market” in U.B.) in front of camp.  It was great to see that the river was in prime shape and that the grayling and lenok were abundant.

Photo 7Photo 8Photo 9After a few days of fluffing the camp and boats, we were ready for the arrival of the first group of guests.

Week 2:  The Dries Have It!

Our first group was composed of the original six Texans who had diverted their trip last season when they learned of the blown-out river conditions.  Literally pulled from the airplane, they had audibled to a fall-back adventure in Alaska.  That trip had been a success, and now they were stoked to finally be wetting lines in the Land of the Giants.

Photo 12These guys were all solid fly fishermen, and they wasted little time in getting stuck into some great fish.

Photo 16Photo 15Even the pike were biting dry flies.

Photo 15aBack at International Guide H.Q., beer-fueled fly tying sessions lasted each night until the generator shut down.

Photo 10The Cyclops was an early-season favorite.

Photo 11As the week progressed, we had some amazing fishing.  One day, however was unforgettable:  I was guiding Kerry Hagen from Portland, OR, a single angler that had joined the Texans for the week.  Kerry had so far experienced less spectacular fishing than the others and wondered aloud if he was doing something wrong.  I advised him to hang in there (what else can you say?), that his day was coming.

The day was cloudy and overcast.  One of the Texans had reported finding a dozen dead mice in a weedbed near one of our favorite log-jam pools downriver the day before. Hmmm. . .  Additionally, the nightly dance-party of rodents (and the morning’s casualties) in the cabin suggested that this might be a big rodent year.

Photo 23aTying on a fresh mutant mouse pattern, Kerry and I headed down to the aforementioned log jam and waded in.  What happened next still defies description.  Kerry quickly rose, hooked and landed a nice fish in the 3-foot range, his best of the week so far.  And then, it happened: taimen began rolling and porpoising in the pool.  Kerry cast again and immediately hooked and landed another 3-footer.  In the course of the next 30 minutes, Kerry rose 7 more taimen including a couple pretty big ones, landing 5 more, all around 3-feet long. The taimen were clearly interested in the mutant mouse fly.

Photo 13Finally, the pool quieted, and we moved on, both of us shaken and shaking from the experience.  Kerry went on to raise several more fish throughout the afternoon landing so many that I was popping three-footers off the fly like they were McKenzie planter trout.  By the end of the day, Kerry had raised 20, hooked 16 and landed 12 taimen.  The mutant mouse was a little chewed up after the experience, and it had earned a new name: the “Hairy Kerry.”

Photo 14By the end of the week, the group’s official tally was an astounding 119 taimen landed.  Even though everyone landed trophy-class fish for the week, the true giants risen and lost haunted our nightly debriefing sessions in the cabin.  Truly a historic week!

Week 3:  Elvis is in the Building

Jame-o left us after the first week to head back to Norway to return to his regular job guiding for huge Atlantic salmon.  Matt, Bayaraa, Ganzorig and I remained in camp to handle the smaller group of four anglers for the week.  No matter what you are expecting when you come to Mongolia, it is still a bit disorienting when your guide ties on the first taimen fly for the afternoon session.

Photo 17This week the fishing remained strong.  One angler landed a 42″ trophy in the Home Pool in front of camp on the first afternoon.  While several very big fish rose to flies during the week, none made it to the bottom of the net.  Matt and I were co-guiding when we both witnessed the rise of a giant taimen (well north of 50 inches) to a dead drifted Hairy Kerry.  Despite our combined “fervent encouragement,” the fish was not hooked.  This was the theme of the week, with the guides lamenting the “one(s) that got away,” every evening.

Each day dawned foggy and cool with gorgeous afternoons and some amazing sunsets.  And the week settled in to its own rhythm.

Photo 20Photo 19Photo 18Photo 26Photo 27This was a mellow week, with days off for each of the guides, and trips to town and visiting local families for one of the more adventurous guests.  I got to go out one afternoon with Ganzorig and our chef, Sahknaa, looking for pike up one of the sloughs near camp.

Photo 22Photo 23Fly tying sessions every night led to overstocked boxes in anticipation of the next week in the “taimen mines.”

Photo 24Photo 25Week 4: How good is your Portuguese?

The next week’s guests hailed from Sao Paolo, Brazil, and most spoke almost no English.  I foolishly said I knew Spanish, leading many of the guys to speak nothing but Portuguese and Spanish with me, while the other guides got to speak English.  These were great guys.  Four of them were serious anglers, good fly casters with lots of experience chasing big fish in cool places around the world.  The other three guys (the “three amigos”) were total novices in all things fishing (let alone, fly fishing).

Fishing this week was tougher. While the serious guys got after it, enduring the punishment and emotional challenge of taimen fishing, the “three amigos,” had it dialed: trips to town and the inscription rock, visiting local families, riding horses, some days fishing a run or two in the morning, followed by lunch and a nap back in camp, maybe fishing another run in the evening, or wandering the gravel bar looking for cool rocks.  They rose a surprising number of taimen despite not really working that hard.

Photo 28Photo 30Photo 31The other guys put in their time. . .

Photo 29And ultimately they were rewarded with taimen encounters that will stay with them the rest of their lives. On the second-to-last day out, group leader, Jose “Big Plum” Godiano had a great afternoon, landing a pair of trophies on surface flies, one of which was the best of the season.

Photo 33Photo 34Photo 32At the end of the Brazilians’ week, I packed my gear and hopped on the chopper to head home.  Leaving the boys in camp for one last week of guests, I turned my attention to family, friends and fall fishing in the Valley.

Coming through Incheon Airport in South Korea, I was reminded that our economic society has become increasingly specialized.  What do you get for friends who already have everything?  Look for a store that caters to their specific needs.

Photo 35Once again, the 2014 Fall Taimen Fishing Season in Mongolia affirmed my faith in the fish, the fishery, and the future.  Conservation efforts implemented by Sweetwater Travel Company and  Hovsgol Travel Company, and carried today with religious zeal by Charlie Conn at the Taimen Fund, are working.  The long-held dream of establishing a fly-fishing-only taimen sanctuary on this great river system may actually be in reach.

The Taimen of Outer Monglia are settling in for another winter under the ice.  May we all be fortunate enough to meet again.

High Lakes are Holding!

IMG_0840It’s unusual in the thick of the season to get a chance for a vacation with the family.  But this summer, the stars aligned for a five-day adventure in the high Cascades.  We decided to visit the Newberry Volcanic Monument east of La Pine. Specifically, the heart of the Newberry Caldera:  East Lake.IMG_0868The fishery at East Lake is diverse and compelling: Rainbows, Browns, Kokanee, and landlocked Atlantic Salmon make up a veritable smorgasbord of species to target with a fly rod.IMG_0810IMG_0803I limited my arsenal of flies to dries and light nymphs and only fished when there were risers within casting range. IMG_0873This seemed appropriate when balanced against all the other fun activities to be enjoyed:  mountain biking, waterfalls, swimming, hot springs, collecting volcanic debris.IMG_0854Towards the end of the trip, I was still amazed at how beautiful the place was.  The white pumice beach and azure waters made it seem like a true Redneck Riviera.IMG_0832Back here in the Valley, summer fishing has been consistent.  McKenzie trouting has been great.  Steelheading has had its moments in between heat waves.IMG_0738IMG_0704Summertime, and the living is easy. . .

 

Summer Steelheading in the Heat

IMG_0592Summer has arrived in the form of hot bright days and fresh summer steelhead.  Getting on the water early has led to some nice sessions before the midday “inner tube hatch” (safety equipment: half-rack of Coors Light) gets going.  Here are some images from recent trips.  Tight Lines!IMG_0636IMG_0603IMG_0617IMG_0605IMG_0621IMG_0655

Summer Fishing in the Valley “Rains” Supreme!

IMG_0563 - Version 2Fishing has been excellent here in the Valley over the last few weeks.  Rainy weather has led to great trout action on the McKenzie, with wild Redside and hatchery “Breadside” trout rising readily to surface presentations.

Steelhead fishing has been spotty overall, but is improving as more chromers arrive each day.  And these first arriving fish are the hottest fighters of the year.

We’re looking forward to more great fly fishing in the next few months.  Here are some fresh images from the river.  See you out there!

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Taimen Fund Up and Running!

Photo15Mongolian Taimen advocacy took a big step forward today with the launch of the Taimen Fund Website.

Now it’s even easier to support the effort to protect the world’s largest trout.  If you have ever dreamed of catching the fish of a lifetime in Mongolia, here is your opportunity to ensure that the dream remains a reality.

Kudos to Charlie Conn, all of the board members, and the crew at the Taimen Fund for their tireless efforts to protect this incredible and unique species!

Springtime Redsides on the McKenzie

IMG_9884The recent run of summery weather has been great for the fishing on the McKenzie. Green Caddis and numerous other tasty bugs have the fish up and eating every day. With a moderate snowpack, and mild weather on tap from here on out, we are looking forward to another awesome summer season here in the Valley!  Enjoy a couple of shots from the last few days.

See you on the river!IMG_9900OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_9879IMG_9892

 

Bucket-List Bahamian Bonefish

IMG_0275 My father Fred and I recently returned from an adventure to Mangrove Cay Club in the Bahamas.  We had planned the trip for over a year in hopes of getting him into his first-ever bonefish.  For me, it was a return to the flats after an absence of about 20 years.

Coming as it did on the heels of my trip to Brazil, I had spent the two weeks leading up to that trip wrapping up a box of sure-fire bonecrushers.P2170009After a reasonably uncomfortable red-eye, cross-country flight, we arrived in Nassau dazed and excited.  A short hop followed over to South Andros Island, and Mangrove Cay where we were to spend the next 5 days.IMG_0333Dawn broke with clear calm conditions and not a ripple on the water of the Middle Bight out in front of the lodge.IMG_9734In other words, conditions were perfect for good bonefishing!  We were paired with veteran Mangrove Cay guide, Kiki Adderley, for a crash course in the finer points of angling for the elusive “ghosts of the flats.”IMG_9752Fred and I took turns on the deck at the front of the boat. Kiki called out the incoming targets, and we each landed several nice fish from 3-4 lbs through the course of the morning.IMG_9746IMG_9743No matter how good of an angler you think you are, this fishing is challenging.  Fish are hard to spot (Fred admitted on day 2 that, even though he had landed a half dozen bones, he had only seen one before it was hooked).  Success was often only possible by the skill of the guides in directing the cast and retrieve when the fish were in range.

The next day, we woke to less-than-optimal weather conditions.IMG_9768After the morning rain squalls passed, we were left with a freshening wind from the southwest and intermittent clouds, making for much more difficult fishing than the first day.  Fred got a couple from the boat with Kiki, while I opted to wade some promising areas, leading to several shots at cruising fish and one landed.  We hoped for better weather the next day.IMG_9773IMG_9770We woke the next day to gusting winds and heavy rain buffeting the cabin.

IMG_0327Not good.  A couple boats from a neighboring lodge braved the conditions, the guests looking miserable in full rain suits and taking a beating from the chop.  Alton Bain, one of the owners of Mangrove Cay Club, and the guides huddled and finally decided (after several false starts), that there would be no fishing that day.  Ouch!  I took some solace in remembering being weathered out on a bonefish trip to the Florida Keys 20 years before.  That experience taught me that bones are fair-weather friends: on days like this, bonefish action would not be good.  So we had a day in the lodge.  There are worse places to ride out a storm.IMG_9823IMG_9818IMG_9820IMG_9803The next day, the wind shifted to the east, and the rain abated.  Fred and I went for a long run to the cays of the western end of the Middle Bight with guide, Percy King.  On this day, I had several shots at bigger single and paired bonefish, but the clouds and chop, along with murk in the water often made it hard to see them before they were too close to the boat for a good presentation.  Even Percy had trouble picking them up.  So most shots were like, “2:00 – 20 feet!”  And when I did get a fish to respond to the fly, the unsettled weather had them even more wary than usual.  Lots of refusals. In the end, although we were on fish all day, including some very nice sized ones, we only got one to hand.

On the last morning, Fred and I opted to fish before our afternoon flight out of Mangrove Cay.  The weather was finally clearing, but the steady wind persisted.IMG_9788IMG_9787We fished this day in closer range of camp.  Our guide, Prince Moxey, was all-in on my desire to target larger fish.  Fred graciously let me have the front of the boat for the entire session.  Perhaps too, he didn’t relish the prospect of trying to cast in the steady 20-knot wind.download-9

This turned out to be my favorite session of the trip.  Prince encouraged me to dig into my fly box for something meatier than the standard redhead Gotcha that most of the guides favor.  On the premise that big bones like big flies, I tied on Gumby’s Big Bone, a fly Scott had tied and given me for the trip.  It worked!  Bigger singles and fish from pairs ate it with confidence.  Soon I had landed 4 and lost a couple others, although none cracked the 5 lbs+ mark.IMG_9800IMG_9797We ended the session by poling a few passes on a giant flat in mid-channel of the Bight.  Prince said this area is rarely fished, and that the deepwater bones that are found here are bigger and stronger than elsewhere in the region.  I was on high alert at all times.IMG_9795On our last pass, I saw a big green-backed bone meandering along the edge of the drop-off at a good distance to get the cast to him.  Looked to be maybe 6 pounds and clearly would have been the best of the trip.  Alas, the wind and the whims of fishy discretion were not in my favor.  The big fly landed a little too close, the fish noted its presence, made a pulse-quickening feint in the direction of the sinking morsel, and then broke my heart by turning and bolting off the flat to the deep water.

Back at the lodge, Fred and I packed up and readied for the return to everyday reality.  Although the weather had made it tough for us, the trip was a success by any metric.  But as we left the beautiful lodge and the warm and attentive staff, heading for the airport,  I couldn’t help but feel that I had left some great opportunities on the table.  Hopefully it won’t take another 20 years to get my next shot.IMG_9815Two Dudes Fly Fishing is your resource for adventure travel off the beaten track.  Give us a call for information on hosted trips and details for adventures of your own.

Agua Boa Amazon Lodge Fishing Report, Spring 2014

IMG_8918I just returned from a 5-week fly fishing adventure in the Amazon Rainforest, courtesy of Agua Boa Amazon Lodge and Sweetwater Travel Company.  This fishery has always been on my radar, but this was the first time that all the stars aligned for me to make the trip.  And what a trip it was!  A true kaleidoscope of experiences at one of the best fishing lodges in the world.  Here is a virtual sampler of the action from the Equator:

The launching point for the adventure is the capital of the state of Amazonas, Manaus.  Located at the confluence of two huge rivers, the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes, Manaus is the nominal head of the Brazilian Amazon.  P3290123

Hopping a Cessna Caravan and flying north out of Manaus, the transition from city of 2 million to untracked jungle is rather abrupt.IMG_0248After about a 2-hour flight into one of the world’s last great wilderness regions, the first view of the Rio Agua Boa quickens the pulse.P3290099 Unlike typical Brazilian “black-water” rivers where blind-casting with big lures is the norm, here the fishing is 100% fly fishing, and sight-fishing opportunities abound for the legendary “Tucunare Asu,” known to the outside world as trophy peacock bass.

P3040079The lodge is very comfortable, located right on the river, and surprisingly devoid of mosquitoes.  The acidity of the river doesn’t support larval growth, and therefore, Malaria, while endemic to the region as a whole is not found here.  That isn’t to say that there are no insects here.  This is the jungle after all.  A little caution (and some DEET) around dawn and dusk helps prevent discomfort from the no-see-ums, as an unlucky angler, who chose to wear shorts on the first evening in camp, learned the hard way.Piums But no-see-ums aside, you never knew what creepy-crawly would emerge into the light at any given time.  Here are some of the cool bugs that showed up:

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IMG_9040Then of course there are the birds.  This place is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise.  Even a rank amateur like me racked up nearly 50 new species for my life list. Toucans, macaws, storks, and some super weird stuff too.  Like this one, the hoatzin, which eats only leaves, has a predigestive fermentation chamber in it’s gut (like a cow) and thus smells like cow manure.  And they’re known to be social.DSC_1160Here are some more shots of just a few of the awesome birds:IMG_9438IMG_9474P1030427jacamar kingfisher macaws muscovy duck redbellied blackbird silverbeak tanager

And of course the jungle is replete with incredible critters of all stripes. . . and spots!

Wild 078TapirIMG_9823 IMG_0209matamataIMG_9513

ottersBut of course, what most draws anglers to the Agua Boa, when all is said and done, is the incredible fishing.  The Amazon Basin as a whole hosts more unique fish species than the Atlantic Ocean.  With 4 species of peacock bass, several species of piranha, dozens of species of catfish, plus arawana, giant arapaima, oscars, dogfish, traiera, stingrays of all sizes and colors. . . an angler’s mind is truly boggled by the diversity of fish.  One literally can’t so much as glance in the river without seeing fish of some sort.  IMGP0047

And one thing that truly sets this fishery apart, is the quality of the guide staff.  Hired from local villages, these guys are totally in their element on the water.  And yet, they are truly world-class professional fly fishing guides, skilled and versed in the game of big-game angling. Here is a sampling of the incredible fish and the guides and anglers who love them:

P1030447P3270023IMG_9228IMG_9223IMG_5549IMG_9025IMG_8944IMG_8998 - Version 2DSCN0511IMG_8960IMG_0333DSCN0496IMG_8770 P3030073P3030043SAM_0671P3160022P1020023

IMG_9420 - Version 2IMG_9219P1030375TrairaIMG_6763As you can see, the Agua Boa is a real “Walk on the Wild Side” for any angler looking for something beyond trout.

The lodge staff, the facilities, the fishing, and the Amazon Rainforest itself combine to make this one of the best fly fishing trips out there. IMG_9214IMG_9159 - Version 2IMG_9321I can’t wait to go back!

Special Thanks to Taff Price and Carlos Azevedo for use of photos and for spiritual guidance.