That was a long time ago
– You, Volodya, don’t make yourself a giant. Taimen is a beast! Taimen – dzy-s-s and that’s it …
Vasya-Yakut, my old friend, three more times with relish repeats his pagan, viscous, like cedar resin, “dzy-y-y”. Then I can’t stand it:
– Listen, you got me. What does this your “dzy-s-s” mean ?!
Vasily significantly squints his already narrow, like slits, eyes and, cleaning the adhering dirt from the ichigas, begins to teach:
– Your spinning rod is awfully thin. However, we will not take taimen. Let’s better catch the haryuz. They are delicious, we cook fish soup … Catching them is sweet, like kissing a girl.
He pours a little alcohol into a mug, and I, since I am not yet familiar with female charms, remain silent, without objection. We caught taimen after all. It was a long time ago – on Vitim. He took it, as always happens, unexpectedly; under the rift, where sandy deposits were adjacent to half-flooded boulders and driftwood. The first feeling was that I hooked a sunken log, then the line went steeply against the current and the inertial reel started working, put on a “ratchet”. Half an hour of stubborn struggle, which seemed like an instant, and finally the taimen lies on its side at the very edge of the water. Vasily, like a kite, in what he was, fell on him and managed to pull the prey ashore. According to rough estimates, the taimen was at least 30 kilograms.
Then every year at the beginning of September, as soon as the first signs of Indian summer appeared, we already with another friend – Volodya Chernykh – loaded everything we needed into his old Volga and set off on a long journey to the Prodigal, rapids and fish river, where we hunted with spinning rods mainly on taimen and lenok, rolling down to the lower reaches. In general, then there were a lot of salmon in Siberian rivers, including taimen. Now it has survived only in the most uninhabited by man “bear” corners of the taiga. A modern fisherman, in order to successfully hunt this salmon, needs to have a fairly accurate idea of its biology, migrations, spawning timing and behavior at certain times of the year, as well as during the day.
Something about biology
The taimen has a thick lumpy body covered with small scales. The head is slightly flattened laterally, the jaws are studded with large sharp teeth and are very strong. There are also teeth on the palate and tongue. The adult taimen has a cartilaginous process at the tip of the lower jaw. On the sides there are dark, pea-sized spots. Up to two-thirds of the length, starting from the head, the taimen is dark gray, lighter towards the tail, with a reddish tint. The hind fins are dark, crimson-red; the front ones are light. The dorsal fin is almost always covered with elongated dark specks arranged in several rows. The tail is powerful, as if specially designed to overcome various water obstacles and to attack the victim with rocket speed.
Young taimen (taymeshat) have dark transverse stripes on the sides of the body. It must be said that the body color and size of taimen varies considerably and largely depends on the living conditions. Just like the color and taste of this salmon meat. In Eastern Siberia, taimen meat is white, in the Urals it is yellowish or pink, and in Sakhalin it is bright red. Common taimen can be up to 1.5 m long and weigh more than 60 kg. But even of a smaller size, this salmon, like a ram, breaks through poaching nets and tears the nets to shreds. In one taiga village, I heard a story about how a taimen dragged a teenager from the shore – the son of a forester, who was catching a “mouse”. With difficulty, the boy was saved.
Annual rings on the scales of the taimen are quite distinct. It is not difficult to determine the age of fish up to a meter long, but in larger taimen the annual increments during the last years of life are so small that it is not easy to correctly determine the age of the fish. Usually, by the age of four, the taymeshat reaches a length of 25 cm, and by the age of seven it can already grow up to half a meter. Taimen becomes sexually mature only at 9-11 years of age. Compare it with the same roach, and it will become clear to you why you need to be very careful when fishing for this fish. Nowadays, taimen is found, alas, less and less, mainly in the reservoirs of the Northern Urals, Siberia, in the Amur basin, on Sakhalin. Prefers fast taiga rivers and clean cold-water lakes. As a rule, it does not go out to sea, but Sakhalin taimen live for some time in coastal sea waters. A necessary condition for the life of this unique fish is the cleanliness of the reservoir.
In the spring, after the very first thaws, the taimen begins to advance to the upper reaches of the rivers. After they are cleared of ice, taimen are grouped in the mouths of small rivulets and streams. A lot of small fish accumulates here, and predators after a hungry winter greedily pounce on it. In my homeland – in Transbaikalia – the pre-spawning run usually coincides with the spring flood. On the way to spawning grounds, fish often have to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles: rapids, blockages, small waterfalls. During spawning, the body of the taimen acquires a copper-red color.
The female spawns eggs on the rapids, on rocky rapids and rifts, arranging a special nest of small pebbles. Spawning grounds are usually located in large tributaries, far from settlements. Taimen does not like habitable places, especially disfigured by “civilization”. In this he is akin to a capercaillie who chooses a place to live in the taiga, where a person’s foot rarely steps. Spawning takes place in April – May, depending on local conditions. In winters with little snow and, accordingly, with a low level of spring flood, its timing may shift in some regions to the middle or even to the end of May.
Taimen fry form flocks of up to 50-100 pieces, which keep in shallow water near sandy and pebble spits, clearly preferring the latter. Fry in such places usually enter small puddles between large pebbles, where the depth is only 3-5 centimeters. The typical habitat of the grown juveniles is a pool or a relatively deep reach with a relatively slow current, silted pebbles or sand at the bottom, with bushes hanging or falling into the river near the washed-out bank. Juveniles of taimen during the ripening period gradually pass from feeding on benthos to predation. Having become a predator, taimen eats mainly bottom fish. He does not refuse worms, sandworms, larvae of stoneflies, caddis flies.
author V.A. Kazantsev
Open Water Fishing (Complete Fishing Guide)