Return to "Secret River"
In fall of 2006, on a leap of faith, Burl Productions became one of the first film crews to travel to the outer edges of Mongolia to film fly-fishing for Huge Taimen. I was lucky enough to be hosted by Peter Mullett and his Mongolian team headed up by Chimbat Chulum who is one of the most knowledgeable outfitters in all of Mongolia. We spent the first week fishing at Chimbat’s Eg River yurt camp. It’s a great place to warm up on the waters of Mongolia and the techniques it takes to catch a Taimen. The Eg is a big river and has some huge fish, but it’s one of the more known, and therefore more often fished, rivers in Mongolia.
After a week at the Eg camp and with a few big Taimen under out belts, Petter, Gen and I decided to head overland in search of some new and unexplored rivers. On a tip from Chimbat, who knows Northern Mongolia very well, we ended up in a remote outpost in the middle of nowhere. After spending half a day negotiating with the local river protectors, we were finally granted permission to visit a super remote stretch of a little know river that lies deep in a protected canyon. We had to take one of the local officials with us so he could make sure we weren’t fishing with Dynamite and killing Taimen. We had to bribe him with food, alcohol and gifts. After hours on a small dirt path that was more like a horse trail than a road, we came to what is the coolest river I’ve ever seen.
The river was crystal clear. There were Eagles flying overhead and the only tracks in the sand were from a large cat that I assumed was probably a snow leopard. We spotted a huge Taimen in the first pool and hooked it within a few minutes. At one point I came over a cliff and looked down on a pool and there was a huge Taimen rolling around like a dolphin on the surface. Minutes later a pack of 7 to 9 fish all over 40 inches showed up and were hunting the pool like a pack of wolves. As I picked a couple off with my large squirrel popper, I watched them change colors like a saltwater fish that lights up when it’s chasing bait. To this day, it’s the most insane thing I’ve ever seen in fresh water fishing. At one point I thought I had been seeing a huge boulder on the bottom of the river. I just happened to look over as it slid 10 feet to the side. I thought I was hallucinating, but then realized it was a massive fish!! Must have been over 100 pounds!!
Apparently we were the first America’s that had ever been granted permission to camp and fish in this location. The thing that stood out about this river was that it was deep in a steep and remote canyon and it was much more high gradient than most other Mongolian rivers. This geological feature allowed us to sight fish to almost every fish we caught. It also gets allot less pressure and there were huge Taimen everywhere. In addition to the Taimen, there’s plenty of Lenok, greyling and some other fish I have yet to identify. My opening scene from SOULFISH, entitled “River Wolf”, was shot in one day!!! I saw more large Taimen in that afternoon than another film company, that decided to use the same title a year later, probably saw in an entire 2 months in Mongolia. This river is truly a Taimen paradise and may have the highest population of Taimen of any river on the planet!!! If someone told me I could design the perfect river for my taste in fishing, I couldn’t do a better job than the “Secret River”.
Two years later, we have assembled a small team to return to Mongolia and attempt to become the first group of fishermen to ever successfully float and fish this stretch of river. It’s taken Chimbat, our Mongolian guide, two years to secure the necessary permissions to make this expedition happen. We plan to float over 80 river miles of rugged remote uncharted river, through three provinces and past the confluences with 5 other major Taimen river systems. This year’s expedition will consist of Peter Mullett (Mongo Fly), Genevieve Villiamizar, Jeff Currier (Jack Dennis sports), Paul Cuanaugh, Brent Dawson (War Path Flies) and myself. Peter, along with the help and support of Outcast boats has been assembling a small fleet of watercraft in Mongolia consisting of 3 fish cat 1200’s for fishermen and an Air oaring raft for gear. We are going to be floating, camping, fishing and exploring for three weeks straight. Brent, Jeff, Paul and I leave the states on the 13th of Sept. We will meet up with Peter who will have already been there for over two weeks and begin our expedition.
Mongolia is amazing, but my last trip to didn’t come without a price. Towards the end of my trip, I got super sick. I had to endure a week of some of the gnarliest pain I’ve ever felt. Earlier that day we had seen a bad omen. From on a bluff over looking a river, I witnessed two men murder a dog and remove some of its organs. It gave me a weird feeling in my stomach, but I think it was the food I ate later that night that really did me in. Mongolia is a strange land full of mystery and superstition. It’s going to be a big deal to pull this trip off. We are going to be in some of the most remote country on earth.
Wish us luck.