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(1998) Ghenghis Khan ruled most of Asia and part of Europe by terror and plundering in the 11th century. The fish to match Ghenghis Khan's personality is the ferocious taimen, which predates on just about anything.90 mongolia 20220213 1321896354

Ghenghis' grandson, Kublai Khan, was less bloodthirsty, but nevertheless he was a skilled warrior, and his personality could well be compared to the Amur pike, then.

Exotic Fish
In search of exotic fish species I have travelled in many parts of the world, and in 1998 I went to Mongolia, the target fish being the Amur pike. The target area was Onon River, part of the huge Amur River system, and near the Siberian border. Where the Onon meets Balj River is actually where Genghis Khan & Kublai Khan were born, and this is exactly where we camped.

The Amur (Onon) River is one the most prolific in the world, with more than 100 different fish species. My travel companions were mainly interested in the taimen and trout species there, but I had no doubts about my preferred species: Esox reichertii - the Amur pike.

01 mongolia 20220213 1324014737I agree that the taimen is an interesting fish - huge and ferocious. They eat anything that moves, both on and under the surface - they even eat each other and the pike, so the pike is definitely not in the top of the food chain there.

The Journey
After very long flight in aircraft seats built for midgets from Moscow to Ulaan Baatar with Mongolian Airlines, and yet another couple of hours in a worldwar2 double-decker aircraft, we finally made it to Dadal airport, which consists of a grassy landing strip and a log hut - certainly no Estee Lauder taxfree shop there.

Here we met by a gang of half-wild dogs and two Russian military jeeps, which took us onto a wooden raft (with the jeeps), through taiga desert and mountains, and to our final destination, the Onon.78 mongolia 20220213 2083391687

Our camp consisted of 3 gers (tents) and a log hut. This camp was made only for us, erected just two weeks prior to our arrival - was it not for the camp, there would be no habitations in the area, as far as the eye could reach.

The first morning we were more than ready to fish. We were dropped off one hours drive from the camp, and from there we walked another couple of hours along the Agz River. The Agz was very clear, and we could see taimen in just about every pool we came upon, so the fishing fever really took hold, and we landed quite a few fish to about 30 lbs.

I was very happy to catch my first taimen, no doubt about that, but in my mind still lurked the thought of the Amur pike.

22 mongolia 20220213 1985193478
mur Pike, at last
Our first encounter with Amur pike was on the third day of the trip. After another good and long walk, we fished the backwaters or other slower flowing parts of the Onon River, as we had been advised to. It is very apparent that the pike retreat to the slow parts of the rivers, where they are left relatively in peace by taimen.

After several hours with no bites our Czech friend, Harry, finally hooked a pike, and John and I stormed to his aide to land the fish. Our first reaction, when we saw the fish in the water, was total disappointment - this pike looked no different from the pike at home.

Until we got it out of the water...

The Amur pike looks exactly like a common pike in shape, but in colouration the difference is very obvious. It looks like a crossbreed between a normal pike and a sea trout: silvery body with black spots.

The wolves in the area must have believed they suddenly got serious competition with all the howling and cheering from us. The first Amur pike!

We were luckier the next days with the pike. We discovered that we didn't have to walk endless miles to find them – we could actually get them right below our camp. We caught them the way we catch our pike at home, mostly with plugs and jigs, and they fight much the same, as well. But every time we caught one there was cheering, because they look so different and beautiful - every fish a trophy.32 mongolia 20220213 1962620954

The biggest we caught on the trip weighed around 10 lbs, but Harry told us about much bigger fish, that he had seen caught: up to 40 lbs. The biggest specimen I have seen myself weighed 26½ lbs, so there really are some monsters there to be caught.

Good Fishing Conditions
We were really quite busy catching fish on this trip - not only taimen and Amur pike, but also outlandish types of trout, Amur- and lenok trout, several types of arctic grayling, houting, catfish and even an Amur asp.

Most of the species were caught on lures and flies, and a couple of pike and taimen were caught on dead bait.

We were lucky with the weather, though it was not like any climate I have ever experienced in my years of travelling. In daytime we had up to +30 degrees celsius, and at night we had down to -10; quite a temperature span.

Cataclysmic Plane Trip
After two weeks of this, we were thoroughly filled with adventure and happy memories - the last night’s memories a little vague, though, as we "had" to celebrate with dancing and Russian vodka.

The drive back to Dadal was quite uneventful, besides the raft being moored on the opposite side of the river. The problem was solved by assistance from a brave Mongolian nomad, who crossed the river on horseback, and then "taxied" the raft to our bank.

At Dadal "airport" we were relieved to see the aircraft parked there, but we had to wait an extra hour for the wind to drop (or else they wouldn't have enough fuel for the trip), before we could set off to Ulaan Baatar.

08 mongolia 20220213 1069925839Finally on the plane, I tried to get some sleep. I felt a little queasy, you know. When I woke it was because the engine sounded funny, and the next second it stopped - completely. At first it was a great relief without the painful noise, but, of course, soon after the situation dawned even on me. I mean, there is just the one propeller on this type of aircraft, so when it stops, there is only one way to go - down ! and quickly !

Maybe these Mongolian pilots are used to this sort of thing, but I certainly could have done without the crash-landing in the middle of nowhere.

I seriously needed a toilet now, but, naturally, there was none in sight. After 3 hours waiting in the taiga desert, and a "pit stop" behind a pile of rocks, we were picked up by two military trucks and transported to the nearest village, where a couple of mini buses waited for us.

We spent the last night in Ulaan Baatar before heading back to Europe, and we spend it, once again, in the company of our Russian friend, vodka. We most surely needed to calm our nerves after that "interesting" flight.

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