Letter From Mongolia

  • By: Peter Fong

We had a great season with many big fish, including the monster in this photo which hit a sculpin pattern I tied with a chunk of rabbit fur the size of a ballpark frank. Lost the beast once after nearly a minute on the hook, under heavy pressure, and when the momentarily disheartened angler (Jim Hickey of Jackson, WY) cast again, it attacked like a crocodile, the water pushing up and over its head in a standing wave.

The conservation efforts of local residents, the World Wildlife Fund, the Tributary Fund, Rare (www.rareplanet.org) and responsible outfitters seem to be paying off, with catch-and-release and single barbless hooks now mandated throughout the country. We also recaptured three tagged fish (notice the scrap of yellow below the dorsal), and now have clear evidence that they can grow two to three inches per year when nobody shoves a hand through their gill plates.

I even managed to catch a few myself this year. This one struck on perhaps my fifth or sixth cast of the season, after a long shuttle and just a few hours of sleep, while waiting for the plane to arrive with the clients. Another guide grabbed my camera, and managed to capture that instant when we first glimpsed the distance between head and tail. Even on what we consider a "smaller" fish, that measure absolutely redefines the proportions of trout fishing.

Peter Fong's stories and photographs have appeared in Fly Rod & Reel, Gray's Sporting Journal, the New York Times and many other publications. He works as a guide for Mongolia River Outfitters (www.mongoliarivers.com).