Back on the Water: Upriver Grayling in Mongolia

It felt good to finally get out on water. Prospecting for these handsomely marked grayling on a small river in Mongolia took us back to prospecting for trout in small waters in other places.

Nearly as translucent as water and marked like colored glass, the grayling’s dorsal fin…

By mid-September, autumn has come to Mongolia’s steppes and mountains. By the end of September, we’ll have had our first snows.

Sluggish with cold and dark with Autumn, one of the year’s last grasshoppers. 

Yellows, golds and browns mixed with the blue-green of evergreens, predominant fall colors across this land. Here and there a touch of crimson. 

Feet up. Water pours across the floorboards of the doorless Polaris Ranger. One of several crossings.

Not everyone made it.

Stringing up. Something between rumor and someone’s good authority sent us up to these headwaters, prospecting.

I stuck my camera into the icy water to get a photo of rocks speckled with caddis casings. 

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We encountered sporadic blue-winged olive mayflies. Rocks we flipped revealed caddis and stoneflies, a few loaches and this dragonfly nymph. 

Possible water, but not promising. Larch trees yellowed by frost-laced mornings, pools in shaded feeder streams iced over.

It feels like a lifetime ago that we were on our boat in Alaska, filling coolers with a years’ worth of ocean bright salmon, halibut and rockfish to sustain us through months in the Arctic Bush. Back to roots – a fly rod, a small river, drifting nymphs and dries. Bone satisfying to once again feel the weight of a fish. Could be a rainbow stream in Colorado, cutthroat water in Oregon, a brookie creek in Pennsylvania or a yamame stream in Japan. It all feels like home.

Barbra’s first grayling and her first fish in Mongolia.

We hiked and drove and hiked some more. At last we found the water I’d been looking for – the right depth, the right flow, the right-sized boulders breaking up the bottom at the right intervals. And there in front of us, tens of fish materialized out of nothing – out of water as clear as air – porpoising and splashing across a run maybe 60 feet long and half that width in pursuit of something tiny emerging from the water. Several times these grayling rocketed completely out of the water as they threw themselves at our mayfly patterns. A number of times we were both hooked up, simultaneously.

Eight inches or eighty pounds… It never gets old. The grayling were still feeding when we left, reluctantly, the sun low behind clouds.

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A backward look…

Grayling. Grayling water. Mongolia…

8 thoughts on “Back on the Water: Upriver Grayling in Mongolia

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