Mongolia – Headwaters Expedition
The Temple of Mongolian Taimen Fishing
The Headwaters Expedition is based on the Delger River in Northern Mongolia. It is a unique fly fishing destination surrounded by snow-capped mountains, vast forests, meadows filled with wild flowers and thousands of rivers and lakes. This is the land of the taimen.
Surface fishing for giant ancient predators
The guides call this place “The Temple”, and it is easy to see why. The river here is extremely isolated and strikingly beautiful. Steep, forested walls frame the boulder filled stream. The high-country river is very well protected and holds ancient taimen that rarely see a fly. The Headwaters Expedition is about quality and not quantity. You fish meticulously, quietly walk/wading accompanied by a professional guide. There are some enormous fish in these waters. When the river is clear, there are opportunities to site fish for extremely large taimen reaching sixty-inches (1.5m). The trout and grayling fishing is also spectacular and should not be missed.
Guests start at the upper-most ger camp on the Delger River. From this base-camp, you hike or ride into the back-country to reach the headwaters. You begin with a few days fishing at the top of the stretch, then gradually make your way back downstream for several days to access some spectacular water. On the downstream journey, you use rafts to reach fishing water and to move gear to the next tipi camp. Your last night on the river is back at the upper ger camp.
Taimen can live for nearly fifty years and reach over sixty inches (1.5 metres) in length. Several giant taimen are landed every season, but most Mongolian taimen caught on the fly are generally between 30 – 40 inches. They are giant predators, renowned for a ferocious appetite and explosive strike. Their main diet is “small” fish and they do take well-presented streamers. However, taimen often feed on the surface, searching out small mammals and even ducklings. This means taimen aggressively take skated or gurgling surface flies.
Fly fishing for taimen is the big draw, however, the same pristine and productive water that holds this ancient species also produces phenomenal numbers of lenok trout and grayling. Lenok are an ancient and beautiful Siberian trout that aggressively feed on the surface throughout the season. The grayling are the main food source for the taimen but they too offer some wonderful light tackle fishing.
Anglers must be able to hike or ride horses several miles into the back country and must be accustomed to wilderness conditions. The level of exposure is high and weather can easily force trip adjustments. Guests must be able to wade-walk along a river with a rocky bottom. Anglers should be proficient with a two-handed rod (spey or switch) or have a solid double haul to adequately cover the water. You must be in very good physical condition to participate in this expedition.
Read Alex Jardine’s trip report from July 2016 here.
Comfort in the wilderness
The Headwaters Expedition uses both ger camps and tipi outcamps, each season the operation makes small changes to make sure guests have the best level of comfort possible without losing the Mongolian wilderness experience.
The first and last night of the trip is based in a comfortable ger camp. The ger camp offers comfortable shared accommodation gers, a central dining ger, shower ger and loo tent.
For the bulk of the trip anglers will be based in tipi outcamps. These are built each day, whilst more basic than the ger camps they are comfortable. There are two anglers to a tipi, with sleeping cots, a central dining tent and simple loo and shower tents.
The beautiful Khövsgöl region
The Headwaters Expedition is based on the Delger River in the Khövsgöl region of Northern Mongolia. It is a unique fly fishing destination surrounded by snow-capped mountains, vast forests, meadows filled with wild flowers and thousands of rivers and lakes.
Interacting with traditional Mongolian herders is a very unique part of this angling experience. The few families who live at the gates of the headwaters help to guard and protect the river. These families provide the camels and horses that support the expedition.