For the traveling angler, a float trip through the wilds of Outer Mongolia represents a spectacular angling adventure. Rich with native culture, stunning scenery, spectacular trout and grayling fishing, and numerous opportunities to hook the exotic and monstrous river taimen, these luxurious wilderness float trips are unlike any other. After a full day of floating and fishing through some of the most pristine and dramatic landscapes imaginable, you will arrive at a fully set up camp complete with a large dining tent, shower tent, multiple outhouse tents, and either traditional Mongolian ger’s with wood stoves or expedition style tents complete with cots and bedding. For those that enjoy the pace and solitude of true river-time, this is one of the ultimate adventures. In the past there were multiple outfitters operating multiple different rivers, but now both of the major float trips are owned and operated by the same company. As the true names of the rivers have been guarded over the years, the programs have retained the names of the original outfitters: Fish Mongolia and Mongolia River Guides.
Picking your program:
Now that both rivers are being operated by the same outfitter, and both have an exceptionally high level of service, the hard choice is which one? The group size, quality of the guiding and camp set ups are virtually the same on both rivers.
Delger River: The most outstanding feature of the Delger is that it is on one of the most beautiful rivers imaginable. It starts high in the mountains so it’s season starts much earlier and runs longer the other operations. This make it the perfect trip to combine with either Naadam (Mongolia’s largest festival) in July, or the Eagle Festival in early October. Just taking this trip as a scenic float is totally worth the price of admission. Getting to the river is more adventuresome than other programs because it involves a flight, and then an eight hour overland drive into the river. For some the drive might be part of “getting there”, but modern 4WD trucks are comfortable and the scenery is absolutely spectacular, making the trip most enjoyable.
Onon River: The Onon is also on a beautiful river, and as they charter directly from the capital, in and out of the river travel is quite easy. It also has a more prolific population of Tiamen and the unique armor trout. All the fishing is from drift boats and as it is a lower land river its season starts in early September and goes until the first snow fall in mid-October.
There is no doubt that multi-day float trips are a wonderful way to see and fish a river and Mongolia is no exception. Every year the outfitter establishes a string of well-appointed camps accessed by remote roads and airstrips. Their down river programs allow anglers to fish a new stretch of river daily. A typical day begins with fresh brewed coffee around the campfire, followed by a hearty breakfast with muesli, eggs, bacon or ham, and pancakes; then it’s time to get the waders on and head out for your day of fishing. Before you leave camp you simply put your camp clothes back in your bag and the crew will transport it and have it ready at the next camp. Through the morning you will float and fish your way through pools and runs covering the water thoroughly. At lunchtime the fishing team meets up to relax while the guide set up a gourmet shore lunch. Then it’s back to the boats to float and fish into the evening. At day’s end, you’ll once again arrive at a lovely stream side camp to find everything prepared for another relaxing evening. After a week of hard-core fishing by day, and beautiful, comfortable camps at night, you will have explored nearly a hundred miles of highly productive and stunningly varied landscape and water.
Both rivers are designed for the fly angler. The trout, lenok, and taimen fishing are consistently good throughout the entire reach. The river maintains a steady flow through dramatic and unpopulated landscapes with a very healthy riparian system. Fishing is primarily on the surface, using mostly terrestrial patterns for the trout and large stimulators for the taimen. With the stealthy drift boats and high water quality, anglers commonly sight cast for both taimen and trout. They often see frenzied taimen feeding behavior with huge taimen slamming game fish onto the shore or a two-foot trout sprinting across the river surface in absolute terror as a giant taimen charges it like a shark. Due to rigorous conservation efforts, there is very little fishing pressure. Every section of river is usually rested for a week between trips and fished only a few days each per year.
Taimen Fishing: Fishing for taimen is highly addictive. They are strong, ferocious, top-feeding predators. While the rivers holds and delivers fish pushing sixty inches, most fish landed measure between thirty-three and forty-five inches. The biggest fish landed each season typically measures in the mid fifty inches. The best recent single angler day was nine taimen netted. This lucky angler experienced the exception and not the rule. You will likely see many enormous fish during your stay and can typically expect several taimen shots a day. However, taimen fishing is not easy. Taimen don’t require Herculean casting skills, but may demand steel-heading patience. Taimen are moody and difficult to land. Anglers commonly have to hold on helplessly as a big taimen charges down-stream with the entire line only to have the fish turn and spit the fly. Come prepared for a wonderful angling challenge, celebrate every fish caught and you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.
Trout Fishing: Trout fishing in Mongolia is possibly the most overlooked fishery in the world. The main catch is the Mongolian lenok that average an impressive 16"-22”, and grayling. These fish are plentiful and respond very well to big bushy dry flies. On an average week, guests should anticipate landing more than twenty fish a day. In addition to these two species, Mongolia River Guides has Amur trout. These thick-bodied, golden fish are found only in a few Mongolian streams. Amur trout behave much like big browns with very belligerent attitudes. The average size is 18"–22" with some reaching 25" or more.
The guides are a wonderful mix of Mongolian and international. They have each spent years on the rivers and know these waters well. The international guides hail from Montana, Aruba and Chile. Guides know the local culture well, are excellent naturalists and are able to describe the unique and rich biodiversity found along the river.
Boats and Equipment:
Both operations use drift boats for fishing and rafts to transport gear. Due to the dramatic nature of Fish Mongolia’s river they use NRS inflatable drift boats. The fishing is a combination of float and wading, very similar to spending a day with a guide and a drift boat on any river in the American West.
Non-angling activities include horseback riding and hiking. With advance notice, it’s possible to arrange for guided horseback riding and hiking between camps. Non-angling partners also often enjoy the downstream float trips. Birding is quite popular, with several unique species including the white-naped crane and fish eagles.
Accommodation and Meals:
Much like being on an African tented safari, the camps are simple and rustic but very comfortable. On most trips, guests are accommodated in lovely ger camps. Each ger is complete with wood stoves, cots, linens, and blankets and even though the floor of the ger is dirt, they most often have colorful wood rugs to add to your comfort. On cold mornings, the designated fire starter will come into your ger just before it is time to get up to start a fire in your stove. Each camp also has a dining tent, a shower tent, and multiple tents with pit toilets. Although these trips have to be considered a form of camping, the touches like carpets in your ger or tent, artfully prepared warm showers, candle lit dinners with Chilean wines, and all around warm service, make it a very civil experience.
The camps are designed as places to unwind after a wonderful day on the river. Each camp reflects Mongolian traditions and is well integrated with the country’s natural surroundings. There are no generators or stereos in camp so the only the sounds you'll hear is the trees and the water. The only lights are the glow of candles and wood stoves, and the sparkling night stars. All combined, they create a wonderful relaxing atmosphere where you can curl up in front of the woodstove and read a book, or enjoy a lively discussion about the day’s events with old and new friends.
Mongolia reminds many folks of the American West before dams, ubiquitous paved roads, and barbed wire fences came along. Mongolians continue to make the most of this unfettered landscape, still following a unique nomadic, horse-riding lifestyle with deep, Tibetan Buddhist roots and a serious respect for nature. Mongolian culture venerates hospitality and the camp staff is no exception. They are wonderful, hard-working, fun, and highly attentive folks. You’ll have a great time getting to know them and they will make your visit memorable.
The food is fresh, diverse and very well suited to Western tastes. The coffee is usually hot, the beer cold and the wine very palatable! The resident Buryat people are famous for their homemade bread, butter and blueberry jam. Lunches are served stream side.
Delger River Sample Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive Ulaanbaatar (known as "UB"), Mongolia. A Nomadic Journeys driver and guide will meet you at the airport and deliver you to the hotel. Guests are accommodated at a comfortable hotel located in the city center. Anglers always have their own hotel room in UB unless traveling with a spouse, or if they prefer to share. The guide will continue to be at your service during your stay in Ulaanbaatar.
Day 2: Transfer back to the airport (30 to 40 minutes) to check in for the one and a half hour domestic flight to Muron (either a Saab 340 or Boeing 737). In Muron, you will be met by Fish Mongolia’s local representative, and a member of the guide team, who will transfer you approximately eight hours by Toyota land-cruiser to the first camp. Once you arrive you will be met by the rest of the team, get a brief overview of the camp, and get ready for your week on the river.
Day 3 to 9: Seven full days of floating and fishing. Each evening you will arrive at a fully set up camp.
Day 10: Drive out to Muron for the return flight to Ulaanbaatar.
Day 11: Fly home.
Onon River Sample Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. A Nomadic Journeys driver and guide will meet you at the airport and deliver you to the hotel. Guests are accommodated at a comfortable hotel located in the city center. Anglers always have their own hotel room in Ulaanbaatar unless traveling with a spouse, or they prefer to share. The guide will continue to be at your service during your stay in Ulaanbaatar.
Day 2: Charter flight to river for first day fishing. Nomadic Journeys driver and guide meet you in the early morning to transfer to the airport. A ninety minute charter flight to the river is followed by your first day of fishing. Anglers are usually on the river and fishing before noon. Overnight in ger camp.
Days 3-7: Taimen and Trout Fishing. At your request, early coffee/tea is served in your ger. Hearty breakfast is served in the central eating ger. Guests and clients jump into boats and drift downstream. You will typically cover ten to twelve river miles each day. Lunch is served stream side. Arrive at downstream ger camp in the early evening for hors-de-oeuvres and sundowners. A multi-course dinner is served in the dining ger, including wine/beer. Fireside chats, recreational fly tying, and the occasional traditional music concert, classical guitar playing or distant wolf howling follows dinner. Overnight in ger.
Day 8: Return to Ulaanbaatar. Morning charter flight to Ulaanbaatar. Afternoon shopping and site-seeing with guide followed by the evening dinner. Accommodations are in a downtown hotel.
Day 9: Depart Mongolia
2020 Rates: $6,450 per person for an 9 night/6 day package
Included: Two nights hotel in Ulaanbaatar, airport transfers, transfers to/from the river, fishing permits, guide services, accommodations and meals including soft drinks, beer, wine and classic Mongolian vodka at camp, $500 Conservation fee.
Not included: International airfare, meals and drinks in Ulaanbaatar, and gratuities.
Species: Taimen, Amur trout, Amur pike, Lenok
Season: August – October
Capacity: 8 Anglers
Time: The time in Mongolia is 15 hours later than Pacific Standard Time.