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Taimen Fishing: Where, When, and How to Fish for This Impressive Species

Taimen Fishing
Getty Images: DieterMeyrl

Here's your taimen fishing instruction manual and angling guide.

The taimen is the world's largest salmonid, and that should get any prospective fisherman excited. Once found over large areas of Russia, Mongolia, and China, the species is threatened by overfishing and habitat destruction, but anglers the world over shouldn't dismay just yet.

We aren't exaggerating when we say this is a big fish. Taimen can grow up to six-feet long, and weigh well over 200 pounds looking like a trout that took too many steroids or was exposed to too much radiation. 

As the National Geographic likes to say, "It is not just their size that makes this taimen a true river monster. They are ferocious predators that will explode out of the water to attack any mammals--rats, ducks, even bats--that may be unfortunate enough to end up in the water."

Mongolia Taimen

Taimen Fishing
Getty Images: DieterMeyrl

There are several varieties of taimen around Asia, but generally when discussing the Hucho taimen it refers to the Siberian or Mongolian taimen. These incredibly large members of the salmonid family are not only a favorite of traditional anglers everywhere, but flyfishing enthusiasts too.

Interestingly, taimens are potamodromous which is a big word meaning that, unlike some other salmonids, they spend their entire lives in freshwater. They usually live in fast-flowing rivers with high oxygen concentrations. There are good angling possibilities for taimen in both Mongolia and Siberia. The fact is that a bucket-list trip to either place requires serious planning, a good outfitter, and usually means staying at a taimen camp in the wilderness. In truth, the camping aspect is part of the experience of going after this fascinating fish.

Just don't expect to take one home with you. Taimen are a slow-growing species that take up to seven years to reach sexual maturity, which means populations just do not bounce back very quickly. Those in the know say the removal of even a single large fish can hurt taimen populations so catch and release fishing is the order of the day. Make sure you get good photos and measurements so you can have a replica made of your catch once you get home. 

Generally speaking, the fishing season in Mongolia legally opens on or around June 15th and closes November 1. By the time the June opener rolls around, the post-spawn period which ends in May, means the taimen begin feeding aggressively.

As with any fishing excursion, perfect weather and water conditions are never guaranteed, but as the fall becomes obvious in the air, the fishing will pick up again. As Fish Mongolia says,

"The fishing is a combination of drift boat and wade-walk. This is a great river for both single and double-handed rods. The single-handed rods are used from the drift boats. The double-handed rods are generally fished from shore, but some guests use switch rods to great effect from the boat. Most guests bring a five-weight single hand for the trout and a seven, eight or nine weight single hand for the taimen."

As taimen are known to feed on even adult fish, fly fishermen often use giant flies with 6/0 hooks in tandem to create the look of larger prey. Certainly there are outfitters and fishing lodges that offer traditional-style fishing for taimen, but the majority of angling for these brutes is on the fly.

Taimen Fishing

Taimen Fishing
Getty Images: DieterMeyrl

Taimen are one of the most aggressive apex predators that swim in freshwater and they act like it. When a three or four-foot river fish suddenly and violently smashes your fly or other offering and the line becomes tight, you will instantly learn what it means to be on your "A" game. Taimen fishing is done in some very remote areas that can require float planes, jet boats, and long journeys to get to the prime locations. Unfortunately, that means it can make the trips a little expensive if you end up fishing Russia or the Mongolian frontier.

Common tactics for taimen include dry flies, mouse patterns, streamers, and even with spey rods. Whatever gear you use, make sure it is heavy duty stuff. Veteran fly fishermen will tell you these fish explode on the fly in the most aggressive fashion, sometimes coming completely out of the water on the strike. They sometimes draw comparisons to a big tarpon- tail walking along the river's surface despite their size, then digging for the nearest depth. That's a heck of a comment for a freshwater member of the salmonid family!

Maybe the best thing about these pugnacious fish is that they will miss your offering (or you miss the hook-set) and then come right back for a second or even a third try! You rarely get those kinds of second chances with other species regularly targeted on fly fishing trips. 

Fish of the Last Frontier

The largest member of the salmonoid family lives in relative obscurity. Mostly thanks to the remote fisheries it calls home. For anglers in the know, a fishing trip for the elusive tamien can be the true trip of a lifetime. If you have been looking for some great fishing for a truly unique species, the taimen is a species to consider targeting for a bucket list trip.

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Taimen Fishing: Where, When, and How to Fish for This Impressive Species