Fishing in Mongolia

By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

Several years ago while fishing our annual Brazil trip, our on-site guide Matt Ramsey from Eugene Oregon showed us a video of fishing for Taimen in Mongolia. These fish are the largest saminoid in the world often growing to 50 inches or more and weighing in excess of 40 pounds. We were hooked. My fishing partner, Chris Nischan, and I decided to go. Since they only book 6-8 guest the positions fill fast. The first leg of the trip is a 15 hour flight to Seoul Korea, overnight to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, then to the camp on the river by antique Russian helicopter. We decided to stay in Seoul a couple of days – when are you likely to get to this place again? Our guide Sun Woo was excellent. She showed us the DMZ looking across the river to the fake North Korean cities, took us to the market for dining on live octopus, and finished it off with a traditional Korean barbecue. Then on to Ulaanbaatar to overnight in a small sparsely furnished hotel and on to the MI-8 vintage helicopters for a 3 hour ride with the Mongolian air force pilots, who pick up a little extra money flying the fishermen to camp. On to the Eg and Ur rivers, about 20 miles from the Russian border in northern Mongolia. We were escorted to our ger, a traditional Mongolian nomads living quarters, round and covered with hides warmed by a wood stove.

The rivers are clear and fast with marble to baseball size rocks. No paved roads, no cars, only Chinese motorcycles. No fences. The horses, sheep and a few cattle roam the vast grasslands clad “steps “, but beside most of the ger is a dish and a basketball goal. Most Mongolians speak 4 languages: English, Russian, Chinese and Mongolian.The Mongolians do not eat much fish. Even in Genghis Khan’s day, their diet was mutton, goat, and horse. The horse meat we ate was o.k.

Now let’s get to the fishing. The taimen is what the Mongolian angler experience is about. The taimen is kin to a salmon living in a few rivers in Russia and Mongolia. They can grow to a considerable size with the largest recorded being 231 pounds. A 50 inch fish is considered a trophy. They prefer grayling as their main meal. These fish literally crash the flies, often knocking it out of the water on the take. The take is what you come for. I’ve never seen a more vicious hit, and of course hitting a giant popper on top is the only way to go.  All taimen are catch and release. The taimen are best fished on a 9wt with a floating line, 30lb 6 ft leader with a huge popper, an over-sized juggler might be a better description. The best fishing is done from the boat. Your guide drops the anchor and lets the current move the boat down river as he holds on to the back and guides it. Some fishing is done from the banks but we did better walking the boat down river. Long casts with short pop, pop, pop, 3 inch strips is the method to attract these giants.

There are other species on the river that readily take a fly, dry flies especially. Lennox trout, sometimes called an Asian trout, are a real deal. Grayling and pike are there too. Pull up on the bank and drift a dry fly, it would be unusual if you didn’t get a hit in less than a minute.

Even if you were not a fisherman, Mongolia is an intriguing country to visit. The scenery, the people, and the fishing make this an unforgettable experience.

Thomas R. Dempsey, certified casting instructor Mobile, Alabama.

Our Guide in South Korea

guide

The DMZ

DMZ

Russian MI-8 Helicopter

helicopter

Our ger in Mongolia

Ger in Mongolia

Poppers

Poppers

Taimen

Taimen

Taimen

Taimen

Lennox Trout

Lennox Trout

Fly Fishing Exotic Locations is FUN!

Fly Fishing Exotic Locations is FUN!

Exotic By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

Fishing exotic locations is just plain fun, but there are aspects that require preplanning in order to avoid disasters. Doing a little research can enhance your experience and prepare you for any potential problems. 

Make a Budget

When you decide where you are going, set a budget and get all the up front cost from the outfitter. Be specific,many lodges charge big bucks for liquor  and bottled water and some even have a surcharge for gas. Fly in and fly out might be advertised but you may be charged per trip. This can climb into the hundreds of dollars. A good friend of mine was told when they landed for their trip on the rivers of the Kamchatka  that they would have to pony up $800 dollars each to feed the big orange MI-8 helicopter fuel. Fishing in front of the lodge might be your only option unless you fly. Believe it or not there are lodges that do not allow their clients to fish on the property without a guide. On a trip to Mexico we were told not to fish in the waters in front of the lodge because drugs often floated up on land and were collected by the local cartels.

Accomodations

Check out the accommodations before hand. Air conditioning can range from open windows to full fledged USA style. In some locales the air conditioning only works when the onsite generator is cranking. On my first trip to the Amazon we were given a car battery and a fan, welcome to Amazonian air conditioning.

Food

A hamburger outside of the US is a culinary snare trap. You are better off eating what the locals eat. One of the clients on our trip to the Paraná River in Argentina insisted on following a strict vegetarian diet of fresh unwashed greens and veggies. Six days later she is still trying to identify the alien in her gastrointestinal track. Prophylactic Cipro could have salvaged her trip. Pack a jar of peanut butter. The soul food of the international angler.

Medical Needs

We complain about our healthcare system in the US, but believe me it is comforting to know there’s an emergency room or a drug store close by. Being a physician and an angler I try to anticipate any potential emergencies when I fish outside of the US border. Beside taking your personal prescriptions, throw in something for pain,sleep, diarrhea, indigestion, in addition to a little Benadryl for the critter bites. Mild analgesic cremes and antiseptics are hard to come by in the jungle. Band-aids and steri-strips can close a wound until you get back home. If you can tie a blood knot, you can learn to inject xylocaine and extract a hook or sew up a laceration. FYI: We offer a crash course in suturing to our fly club members.

I had the opportunity to experience the Canadian socialized medical care system up close and personal when I suffered an open fracture to my little finger when I slipped on the rip-rap on the Cascapedia River. A trip to the E.R. got me back on the river. Although the care was adequate, they deal in cash only for their southern neighbors. Many international anglers are older who now have put enough back in the travel piggy bank to allow them to take the “bucket trip of a life time”. With age comes health concerns. But you would be surprised on how few fishermen  never consider medical evacuation insurance. You pay $6,000 dollars to go catch Golden Dorado in Santa Fe Argentina, but “save” money by skimping and waving off the Medivac or the Global Rescue that can get you back to a US hospital.

Real bad things do actually happen to fly fishermen. We had a trip to the Agua Boa punctuated with an explosion of the aviation fuel depot and resulting in no fewer than 10 burned people being air-lifted to Manuas. The next year one of the clients down river lost his arm in a schoolboy prank of “let’s see which boat can catch the biggest caiman”. Not to mention the physician who was fishing with his son and an on-site guide when he developed a life threatening case of intestinal obstruction. We were lucky to have some I.V. fluids available, and I had some morphine, the only piece of equipment missing was a nasogastric tube to decompress his swollen stomach. That was solved when one of the Brazilian guides presented us with a plastic gas line. It saved his life until he was flown back to Atlanta.

Gear to Pack

Gear to go should be a minimal amount but adequate. Let your clothes serve a dual purpose. Leather shoes never dry out in a tropical region,wear synthetics with no-scuff bottoms. Quick dry pants are great and cotton is always cooler than anything manmade. Now all you need is a Buff, a hat, and 2 and I mean 2 pair of polarized sunglasses. In the colder climates, layer. Your waders keep you dry and warm. Don’t fudge on quality. Buy the best foul weather gear on the market, you’ll never be sorry. It is nice to have those extra rods and reels in your luggage provided your luggage arrives when you do. When you fly on an airline such as Lloyd Areo Bolivia that has only one 737 in operation you had better carry on a rod, reel, flies and anything else you can cram in your backpack in case your gear doesn’t arrive. There are baggage handlers and airport workers that know very well what an Abel reel is worth. If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t take it.

$Manners

Tipping your guide always brings up a discussion behind the potted plant just as you are about to depart. Always ask before the eleventh hour what the usual tip comes to. Sometimes it is included in the package, great. An all inclusive tip in one lump sum is better than having to tip each person in the camp. I like to tip a little extra on the front end. It is doubtful that we would have seen some of the special  “honey holes” if we had not greased our Bahamian guide’s palm with a few shekels on the morning we pulled away from the dock. Consider packing things like an extra pair of sunglasses, a Michael Jordan tee shirt, a spinning reel, Marlboro Reds, some cosmetics for the house maid who makes you bed, think what you like and the chances are they will like it also. We pack a suitcase with goodies for the camp personnel evey time we travel. On one trip my partner sharpened all the cook’s knives, man, we got anything we wanted from the kitchen after that. Leave the guides whatever you can spare, they will remember you the next time you show up. Let’s not forget about cash, I mean folding money. U.S. currency the universal ticket to a smoother trip abroad. A $20 dollar bill in your passport will go a long way in getting you that window seat on the plane for the long ride back home.                              

Mementos

Always bring back something you can look at while you are sitting around in a coma planning your next trip. My buddy still uses the paddle to propel his Riverhawk on the Caney Fork River that Pablo made for him for the lofty sum of $5 dollars. Those shellacked  piranha  for .50 cents make great gifts. I traded my B.C. guide a UNC basketball cap for a hand-carved cane. Don’t travel without a digital camera. I take one small point-and-shoot waterproof [got some great under water shoots of piranha eating cheese out of my hand, really] and I take my bigger camera for the proverbial grip and grin photos. Film was cheap but digital is cheaper, and provides instant gratification. You are always sorry for the trinkets you didn’t buy and the pictures you didn’t take.

Finally, there are some universal truths that traverse all national and international boundaries:  

1. If anything bad is going to happen the chances are it will happen on the water. Never was this any truer than during our trip across Lake Illiama in Alaska the wind lifted the aluminum jon boat like a kite and dumped 3 of us in the frigid water. Wear a life jacket then at least they can recover your body.

2. ” When in Rome………” Yep, be nice to the locals and especially to anyone wearing a uniform,a badge, or packing an AK -47. I witnessed a bunch of “bubbas” from lower Mississippi lose all their take home goodies and the better part of their personal fishing gear and clothes after back-talking the security guys in the  airport in Caracas. And when the guy in shorts and a t-shirt insists you pay a deplaning tax while you wait in the airport for the plane to be refueled, just do it. You are in his backyard.

3. Assume nothing. Always allow some wiggle room on the front end and the end of your trip. When I planned my trip to Newfoundland, Lee Wulff’s Brook Trout Haven, I was told to allow 2 to 3 days travel time on side of the trip to allow for foul weather. The 9 p.m. scheduled flight out of Miami Int. to Manaus never ever left before midnight. Tape a thin roll-up sleeping bag pad to your back pack so you can curl up on the floor in the airport and grab some zzzz’s while you wait for the flight crew to roll in. My Delta agent upon hearing my travel delays reminded me to think before I bad-mouthed the US airline system next time.

4. You can never be over prepared. The next best thing short of first hand experience is to talk with someone who has made the trip before. The Angling Report is a great resource that is unbiased offering you a look at numerous fishing locations covering the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

So,now you are ready to experience that once in a life time trip that will brand you as an international  angler. Heck, you might get your picture on the front of Fly Fishing in Saltwater or American Angler. Oh, one more thing, don’t forget trip insurance.

Have fun.

Turneffe Island Resort: Looking for Permit and Bonefish

Turneffe Island Resort: Looking for Permit and Bonefish

Exotic By Dino Frangos, M.D., IFFF MAster Certified Casting Instructor

Belize City is the capital of Belize. Only a 2 ½ hour flight from Atlanta or Houston, it is your gateway to remarkable bonefish and permit fishing. Enjoy great sight fishing with a fly or spinning rod in an English speaking Central American country.

I just returned from Belize after a successful trip of fly fishing. This was my sixth trip to Belize, and my third stay at Turneffe Island Resort. TIR enjoys a worldwide reputation for its fishing, diving, and snorkeling.
Leaving Mobile, AL on the 6 am flight to Houston, and after a quick transfer, I was in Belize City by 11:30 am. At the airport I was greeted by the TIR manager and shuttled to the marina. There is a 1-1 ½ hour boat ride to the private island. The ride is very picturesque and a welcoming cocktail is served.

On arrival to the island, the entire TIR staff is there to greet you. It reminds me of the opening to the Fantasy Island TV show.  “Smiles everyone.” After settling in, dinner is served family style. Dinner usually includes a fresh local fish, homemade breads and dessert.  

The guided fishing is tailored to your interests and abilities. The experienced guides can accommodate beginners to experts. This trip I was guided by “Taku”, a permit sighting machine. He provided numerous shots at permit. I landed two 12-15 pound permit, lost another to a poor hook set, and had my fourth permit break me off in the coral. The late afternoon was spent landing bonefish.

Two other fly fishers reported numerous catches of bonefish. Their guides were Eddie and Dennis. Both are experienced guides. I have had the pleasure of Eddie guiding me on my two previous trips to TIR. 

This area of the Turneffe Atoll receives very little fishing pressure. In fact, the few other boats seen were from another Turneffe lodge coming to the Turneffe Island Resort area in search of permit.

I would recommend looking at Turneffe Island Resort for your next fly fishing experience. There is nothing like the sound of your fly line screaming off the reel as you try to land a bonefish or permit. You may want to bring along a significant other to enjoy the diving and snorkeling, or lounging by the pool sipping a Pina Colada.

If you want to know more about TIR contact me.

Dino Frangos
IFFF Master Certified Casting Instructor

Fishing Brazil! (Peacock Bass)

Fishing Brazil! (Peacock Bass)

Exotic By Thomas R. Dempsey, M.D. CCI

By far the hardest fighting fish ounce for ounce, pound for pound, is the peacock bass.

Instructor Tom Dempsey and Nashville hunting and fishing guide and fishing partner, Chris Nischan just returned from their fifth trip to South America where the peacock bass was the target species. Miami to Manaus is a 4-1/2 hour trip followed up with a 200 mile skip to the Agua Boa river and the Agua Boa Amazon Lodge. This fly fish only camp is located on a very small river that is noted for it’s crystal clear waters, a Mecca  for sight casting to marauding fish.

The Amazon is home to over 350 species of fish all of which will hit a fly. We had the good fortune to catch 17 different kinds of fish the first day. Although the camp is 200 miles from civilization in the middle of the jungle, there is air conditioning, internet service and the best food this side of grandma’s table. Fishing, all catch and release, is from jon boats with jet drive engines for the really skinny water. Props simply don’t hold up. All the guides are masters at poling and welcome the opportunity to show you they can cast a fly rod also. With over 600 lagoons to fish, as well as 135 miles of river, you hardly ever see another boat from your camp and never fish the same water twice.

Eight weight rods with floating lines and 30 lb. leaders are the tools for landing anything short of a monster. All amazon fish have teeth and everybody eats everybody. Expect to catch any where from 25 to 125 fish per day. The camp record is 550 in one day, no kidding. The PH of the water is so acidic from all the foliage that falls in the river that there are few bugs to worry about. No malaria or Zika here. The extremely low water levels this year pulled a zoo of animals to the river for a drink, peccary, jaguar, howler monkeys, tapir, amazon deer, giant rodents, and a slew of others I can’t begin to name. The location on the equator means the sun comes up at 6 am and sets at 6 pm everyday, and at night there are continuous showers or shooting stars.

This is a bucket trip even for the non-fisherman!!