Charlie Conn, Executive Director
After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minnesota (1994) with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Charlie moved to Livingston, Montana to work for the summer at Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop. His intent was to return to Minnesota to “find a job” at the end of the summer. Instead Charlie spent that fall working for Americares, a US based nonprofit in a relief hospital in Rwanda, Africa. Upon completion he returned to the US to focus on a career in fly fishing, beginning with five seasons with Western Alaska Sport Fishing. He started guiding in Mongolia in 1998 for Hovsgol/ Sweetwater Travel and has been guiding there ever since. In 2006 Charlie and his partners opened the Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston, Montana, which sold in 2011. Charlie is now also the Host and Guide Manager at the Agua Boa Amazon Lodge, in Roraima, Brazil working for his seventh season there.
In 2010, Charlie was the driving force behind the creation of the Taimen Fund for The Tributary Fund. As a seasoned guide in Mongolia it was easy for him to identify the challenges taimen face there and he was inspired to help protect them. When The Tributary Fund closed its doors in 2013, it asked Charlie to continue his work in Mongolia. The Taimen Fund became a non-profit organization in September 2013, and Charlie is proud to be its first Executive Director.
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Dan Bailey, Board Member
A partner of Mongolia River Outfitters and Fish Mongolia, Dan brings more than 130 anglers a year to Mongolia to fly-fish for taimen. Dan began his work in Mongolia during the summer of 2007 as a river ecologist working on the Asia Foundation’s “Securing Our Future” project. During his first field season Dan performed numerous river assessments across Mongolia with a team of Mongolian and American scientists. If you ask Dan the real reason behind his trip to Mongolia it was for a chance at the elusive taimen. “I saw a photo of a taimen when I was 14 and knew from that date forward I would catch one of these beautiful fish.” Following his work with the Asia Foundation Dan began guiding for Fish Mongolia where he spent seven seasons as the head fishing guide. It was during this time that Dan really began to understand the perilous situation that confronted taimen in Mongolia. As a result he started working on a project that was intended to inform foreign anglers about taimen conservation and protection. This project was the foundation for a master’s degree from the University of Montana, which Dan completed in 2013.
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Jeff Liebert, Board Member
Unlike most fly fishermen who learn to fly fish on smaller species, such as trout, Jeff started with a ten weight rod casting imitation mice patterns for one of the greatest top water-striking fish in the world – the taimen. Raised in the great Northwest of the United States, Jeff experienced firsthand the impact of overfishing, damming, and pollution, which led to precipitous declines in salmon stocks. A twist of fate brought him to the northwest corner of Mongolia following college where he served as a small business development volunteer in the Peace Corps, and coincidently is the home of some of Mongolia’s most pristine taimen rivers. It was here that he was introduced to the Hucho taimen, when it hoovered a repurposed teddy bear with trailing treble hooks off the surface of the soft water of an eddy. The fish was over 50 inches long and had a mouth that could easily clamp fully over the head of large adult human. This was indeed a salmonid, a fish that shares genetic roots with the great pacific salmon of Jeff’s birthplace, though with one notable exception: with age and size this riparian creature seeks to supplement its diet with unwitting terrestrials. Jeff’s commitment to protecting the taimen started with an innovative project that he developed while he was at IFC, the private sector investment arm of the World Bank. In 2003 he arranged financing for an innovative public private partnership called the Conservation of the Eg-Uur Wateshed Projectthat over time led to the establishment of the Taimen Fund. Partnering with three brothers from Montana–Sweetwater Travel–and their local partner, Hovsgol Travel, a group of limnologists from the University of Wisconsin, and the government of Mongolia the project established a system by which local communities partner with tour operators to monetize the catch and release of the taimen to cover the costs of conservation on a sustainable basis. Jeff’s passion for fly fishing started in a yurt alongside the great rivers of Mongolia and continues to this day although, lately, work commitments (he is COE of Gazelle Finance) combined with parenting two small children leave him with only enough leisure time to fish for sunfish on the Potomac River in Washington, DC where he lives.
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L. Mark Weeks, Board Member
The Managing Partner of the Tokyo office of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, as well as leader of the firm’s Global Japan Practice, Mark was born in Alaska and raised in Idaho, an avid fly angler since childhood. He has fished six times for Siberian taimen in Mongolia, once for Siberian taimen in Russia, where he caught a world record taimen on 8kg tippet, and several times for searun taimen (hucho perryi or ito) in Hokkaido, Japan. In addition to his work with The Taimen Fund, Mark represents the Wild Salmon Center in connection their efforts to protect searun taimen in Japan’s Sarufutsu River, one of the last major undammed rivers in Japan. In 2009, Mark assisted with the preparation and negotiation of a ground breaking agreement to create the 2,660 hectare Sarufutsu Environmental Conservation Forest that protects the entire river, from the ito’s spawning beds to the estuary where they live for most of their lives. Mark also represents Ocean Outcomes, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable commercial fishing in the world’s oceans.
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John Tarver Bailey serves as Fund Manager, working closely with Charlie to develop programs, revenue streams and manage the day-to-day of running an international non-profit. When not bird-dogging around Montana or supporting TTF, John is the US Representative and Consultant for Indonesia’s Sampoerna University & Sampoerna University American College, managing their transfer program into US partner universities. He also develops renewable energy projects around the state, and works closely with many of Montana’s Indian communities. John’s one trip to Mongolia and time spent on the river stick with him to this day.
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