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There is some big news out of Mongolia this month. Mongolia River Outfitters (MRO; www.mongoliarivers.com), working with the international conservation organization WWF, has reached a long-term conservation agreement with the government of Mongolia to protect two major taimen rivers. More than 400 miles of river are now protected as the world’s first taimen sanctuaries. As if that wasn’t enough, MRO has also reached an agreement to take over Andy Parkinson’s Fish Mongolia (www.FishMongolia.com) operation.
Here is how MRO’s Mark Johnstad described the new developments near press time:
“There are new national fishing rules in Mongolia now. They are a great step forward. Taimen are now designated a catch-and-release species nationally. International anglers may now only fish with an approved outfitter who has shown a willingness and ability to engage transparently with local communities as a conservation and development partner. There are a set number of international taimen permits allocated each year. Permits are allocated only to rivers with proven, viable populations of taimen and in water with active and effective conservation efforts. There are only four rivers in Mongolia that now receive permits, and MRO has longterm agreements for exclusive use of two of them. We have worked with the government and WWF to designate both of these rivers as taimen sanctuaries.
“The taimen sanctuary agreements significantly augment the new national rules on taimen by addressing this species’ susceptibility to changes in habitat quality. The Taimen Sanctuary Agreements outlaw the establishment of dams, commercial extraction of water, and/or discharge of wastewater. Within the sanctuaries, there can be no creation of permanent streamside tourism infrastructure, no mining operations, and no commercial forestry. The use of motorboats and construction of hatcheries are also forbidden. We also worked with government to place additional controls on angling. Anglers may use only single barbless hooks within a taimen sanctuary. International anglers may only fly fish. The agreements also place an annual cap on the number of national and international anglers. Hopefully, this very progressive action by government will help protect the long-term integrity of these remarkable rivers.
“As for the takeover of the Fish Mongolia operation, this not only allows us to help protect a second highly productive watershed, but it also allows us to offer anglers dramatically different fishing experiences. The two rivers are 500 miles apart and have an elevation difference of more than 2,000 feet. They may even host different strains of taimen. Controlling two such diverse rivers means we can expand our fishing season, offering fly fishing trips to Mongolia from June to October with only a short break in late July for the rains.
“Andy Parkinson will continue to run the operation this summer. We’ll take it over in 2014. I’ll be on the Delger for most of August and September working with Andy’s team to set things up for 2014. We will build on Andy’s great work by integrating MRO’s highly successful and popular taimen fly fishing/conservation model. Importantly, the new conservation agreements we have signed essentially double the amount of Fish Mongolia water that will be available. More river fished means more fish covered and more river protected.
“Our plans call for establishing seven comfortable ger camps along the river. Accommodating guests in a string of ger camps allows us to fish a new stretch of wild river every day without having to get into a vehicle. Guests really like the ability to launch right from camp and fish at their own pace. Typically, we will have a separate lunch boat that scurries ahead of the anglers and sets up the shore lunch at a designated spot. Individual guides show up with their guests at that spot whenever they like. Sometimes, everyone has lunch together. Sometimes, if you’ve lucked into a hot spot, you don’t show up for lunch until late. At night, we enjoy the relaxing comfort of pre-established streamside camps. At the end of the season, all camps are removed, leaving no trace of human activity.
“The long-term guides we employ in Mongolia are very good at managing the river space to keep folks from bumping into one another throughout the day. When they aren’t working for us, they work for establishments such as Estancia de los Rios and Nomads of the Seas. Most have fished Mongolia for nearly a decade. Our head guide is a 52-year-old Harvard graduate who lives in Aruba and writes for The New Yorker. These guides don’t say ‘dude.’
“MRO is Mongolia’s only drift boat operation. It’s a wonderful thing casting to trophy taimen from a Clackacraft. However, Fish Mongolia operates on a small, tight river. There are no big rapids, but plenty of big boulders. To compensate, we just sent a fleet of NRS inflatable drift boats over to Mongolia. These innovative products are brand new on the market and will be a great addition to the Fish Mongolia operation.
“The bottom line is that anglers are this project’s life breath. Without good anglers fishing these rivers with approved outfitters none of the conservation success we’ve had would be possible. Like we say on the Web site: ‘How often do you get a chance to show that fly fishing can change the world?’”