Monday, December 10, 2012

Looking Back on the Season

This past season in Mongolia was a memorable one for many reasons. We again were lucky enough to enjoy a veritable parade of skilled anglers and photographers, including Lax-A's Árni Baldursson, Per Jobs of, John and Anna Riggs (you can see her photos of Bermuda in the December 2011 issue of This Is Fly), Worldcast's Gordon Hight, and Rasmus Ovesen and Klaus Pedersen, who have teamed up for stories in many publications in Europe and North America, including Chasing Silver.

Tasmania's Greg French was back on a self-guided trip, bringing me a copy of his estimable Frog Call, which is criminally hard to find in North America.

Also had the rare pleasure of guiding two old friends. How old? We first flyfished together as teenagers, in Yellowstone National Park, when the Summer Olympics were in Montreal and Gerald Ford was President of the United States.

News from New Rivers Press

My contributor's copy of American Fiction, vol. 12, arrived on Aruba after Thanksgiving. I've been dipping into its contents in no particular order, and am in awe of Vedran Husic's "Deathwinked,"  set in wartime Mostar, while the main character in Dika Lam's prize-winning story, "The Polar Bear Swim," produces one of my favorite lines of the past year: "Why do they get to ask all the stupid questions?"

The collection was edited by Kristen Tsetsi, Bayard Godsave, and Bruce Pratt, with Josip Novakovich serving as the prize judge. The publisher is New Rivers Press, which recently named the manuscript of my Florida Keys novel as one of the finalists in their Electronic Book Series.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Taimen Release on Video

Because I feel justifiably protective of each and every taimen in the river, I don't always take the time to shoot photos or video with my own cameras, preferring to get the fish back on their way as soon as possible. But we were lucky enough to watch angler Ryan Wilcox and guide Fabian Mendez release this 50-incher on an overcast day in mid-September, just before lunch. 

The taimen had two lampreys, which are native to this watershed, on its pectoral fin. (If you look closely, you can see the scar that remained after the lampreys' removal.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Conserving Taimen

North American anglers have a long history of trying to save the fish they love. Think Delaware shad, Columbia steelhead, Yellowstone cutthroats. Think Trout Unlimited, the Federation of Fly Fishers, and Patagonia’s World Trout Initiative—which has recently joined a fledgling conservation movement in the fight to preserve Mongolia’s most charismatic salmonid: the taimen.

Though the family resemblance is obvious, this long-lived, slow-growing species boasts a personality more like a shark than a salmon. Taimen are apex predators, opportunistic feeders that occasionally hunt in packs. They’ll readily take rodents or ducklings, along with any fish smaller than themselves, and their voracious attacks on mouse imitations are the stuff of flyfishing dreams. [My stories about taimen appear in the 2008 Expeditions & Guides issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal and the March 2009 Fly Rod & Reel.]

In 2008, six local governments, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Mongolia River Outfitters formed a unique conservation partnership to protect the Onon River, which meanders through the still-unspoiled valley where Chinggis Khan was born. Since then, that partnership can take credit for establishing the world’s first taimen sanctuary and Mongolia’s first taimen-conservation trust fund.

To ensure that released taimen survive to strike again, all angling in the Onon—for any species—is by single barbless hooks. A “pliers program” supplies local residents with tools for crimping barbs and clipping trebles, while an innovative social marketing campaign sponsored by Rare encourages vigilant stewardship.

The campaign manager, Gankhuyag Balbar, is a former mayor of Dadal, one of the region’s larger towns, as well as a former Conservation Fellow at Georgetown University. According to survey results, the number of local anglers who strongly agree that a “taimen should always be put back into the river after it is caught” increased from 36.5 percent to 92.7 percent during the first two years of the campaign.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bonefish on Aruba?

Over the past few weeks, I've begun to see bonefish in sizes and numbers that I haven't noticed on Aruba before. Part of the reason for this is opportunity. Thanks to a broken bone in my foot, which prevents me from enjoying a morning run, I've been swimming a lot. Back and forth, in long laps, over sand and sea grass. Sometimes I see barracuda, sometimes angelfish, sometimes even the broad shiny slab of a permit. (That was when I started keeping a fly rod in the truck.) The bonefish don't seem to mind a swimmer passing a few feet over their heads, and will occasionally tolerate a short pause for closer observation.

Aruba is the only Caribbean island without a marine park or preserve (see the Aruba Marine Park Foundation's Facebook page). Although offshore areas remain reasonably productive for billfish, wahoo, and tuna, the island's inshore waters suffer from a plague of unregulated netting. And yet, there are still fishable populations of many species. These little bones have been mudding in plain view of the hotels, in schools of 50 or more, and are ambitious enough to take the same flies that the larger ones do.

If we can convince commercial fishermen of the value of protecting nursery areas, and strengthen the conservation ethic in other residents, then someday, perhaps, Aruba's underappreciated bonefish will become as famous as its beaches . . .