Fishing Lines: Lured by a taimen in outer Mongolia

Do any readers know the Mongolian for: "I think a pinch of cardomon would spruce up that boiled camel nicely," or "Do you have anything bigger than a labrador for me to ride on?" or "The snow is falling through a hole in the yurt roof on to my sleeping bag"?

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.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003