Fishing Lines: Lured by a taimen in outer Mongolia
Sunday 10 August 1997
Sentences like these - and the correct pronunciation of them - will prove invaluable to me in a month's time, when I head off to a remote region of Mongolia in pursuit of a taimen.
This is not going to be a five-star trip, staying in Ulan Bator's finest, though I'm told the capital is quite an experience. A friend who visited it found a restaurant with a sign on the door saying, "Closed for lunch".
But Ulan Bator (a trading centre producing carpets, textiles and vodka, according to my encyclopaedia) is just a stop along the way. After that, our small party flies on to Morun, pronounced Moron by those who know. From there we board one of those small planes that people tell horror stories about. If all goes well, we land a couple of hours later at a nameless airstrip, where our regular transport awaits - the tiny Mongolian ponies, which take us to our riverside camp.
Eight of us are staying in a yurt with Mr Batso. Yurts are large circular tents with a permanent fire going because at night, it gets so cold (often -30F) that the river starts to freeze.
It's primitive as hell. Our party leader, John Bailey, who runs a small travel company, has warned us what to expect. His first words of advice were: take some food unless you want two weeks of boiled fish, with the occasional straggly spud or dollop of rice. The group has appointed me chef, on the principle that I look like the one who has most to lose by suffering two weeks of slop.
Cooking and the cold are not our only worries. The best fishing is two or three hours by miniature pony. John, an experienced rider, says that it left his bottom feeling as if it had been scrubbed with a cheese grater.
On the plus side, it looks highly likely that we will catch the rarest and largest member of the salmon family. John captured taimen up to 40lb last year, but lost the big ones. We're going there with tough stuff: powerful rods, strong reels, 30lb lines. And we may well need them. Taimen certainly grow to 100lb, probably 150lb and possibly 200lb. From John's pictures, it seems they are a mixture of the reddish sockeye and the silver Atlantic salmon but darker than both: quite slim, with a hunter's head. Their favourite food is tundra mice, which migrate across the rivers at dusk.
And that's about as much as is known about the taimen. Whether they are flourishing or declining, where and how they breed, their migration patterns and their lifespan - all a mystery. Taimen are so rare that only a few museums have even a picture.
I would love to bring back a whopper for the Natural History Museum, but I fear it may miss out. The idea of lugging a 100lb salmon on ponyback for three hours is not worth contemplating. Even if I got it back to camp, it would have to stay outside the yurt and then, knowing my luck, the wolves would probably snaffle it.
I wonder if the scientists would settle for a scale.
Latest in Sport
Revealed: The most unwatchable Premier League teams of the 2014/15 season
Paul Scholes column: With Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Premier League 2015/16 kits: Confirmed and rumoured strips from Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and others
Michel Platini to consider pulling England and other Uefa members out of the World Cup if Sepp Blatter wins Fifa election
Arsenal vs Aston Villa: Per Mertesacker credits yoga for helping him get back to best
- 1 10 ways we damage our teeth – without realising
- 4 Photo of wedding guest proposing to girlfriend in front of bride and groom goes viral
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: it's just gravity — not a Mexican demon being summoned
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...
£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...
£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...