Fly Fishing Heaven – Mongolian Triple Crown

Posted by: Nathan Ward    Tags:      Posted date:  February 4, 2011
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Text & Photographs by Nathan Ward


In Searth of the Famed Taimen on the Delger-Muren River in Mongolia

A decade after being “discovered” and mythic tales of giant salmonids hit the press, Mongolia offers a better fly fishing experience than ever before.  Nathan Ward traveled to this land of untamed rivers, open horizons and horse nomads to cast flies for the Mongolian Triple Crown of big Grayling, hook-jawed Lenok and mammoth Taimen.


In one of my favorite daydreams, I’m on a broad remote river in a stunning part of the world.  The current runs clear and cold, it’s easy to wade with no brush behind to snag my backcast and I’m fly fishing with a beautiful woman.  In Mongolia it all came true.


Andrea, who was recently my bride, worked a Chernobyl Ant over a deep blue seam in the middle of the river.  Before coming to Mongolia, she’d never even touched a fly rod but now finessed her fly on a long drift along the near side of the channel where fat Lenok were stacked up like lottery tickets under the glass top counter of a 7-11.  A few seconds breathless drift and one rose fast, but in her excitement, Andrea ripped the fly away and missed the set.


“Damn it” she blurted, false cast twice and set the Chernobyl back on the water.  This time she didn’t miss and hooked the 15 inch fish perfectly, line tight and jerking under the central Asian sun as the Lenok ran and sawed his way back and forth across the river.  Andrea slowly stripped it into the shallows.  She looked flushed and elated, obviously having tapped into the magic of fly fishing.


This is a story about a wild fishing trip on the Delger-Muren River in northern Mongolia. We worked with Andy Parkinson of www.FishMongolia.com and caught huge Taimen, Lenok and Grayling. This version of the story appeared in This Is Fly Magazine.  It is available for reprints.

Chasing the Wind Horses of Desire in Tibet

Posted by: Nathan Ward    Tags:      Posted date:  February 4, 2011
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Text & Photographs by Nathan Ward


Mountain Biking the Mustard Fields of Tibet

A bicycle journey through Tibet follows a murky line between the past and present, on the backroads of the highest plateau on Earth.


Strung between towering Himalayan peaks, threadbare prayer flags send their timeless pleas sailing out over a land of unknown mountains and the black yak hair tents of nomads, winding through the painted doors of distant stone villages and the shuttered windows of tenacious monasteries, flying through a land ripped from history and thrust into a foreign world. These prayer flags, these wind horses of desire, carry the tales of time here in Tibet, the highest plateau on Earth.


The wind at our backs, we climbed a corkscrew road to the low point in the ridge, more than 17,000 feet above the distant seas, and pedaled over the flag-strewn summit of the Chak La. We paused there beneath the cloudless cerulean sky before rolling into a long descent, one of the marathon downhills only found in the world’s biggest terrain.


Accelerating with gravity’s pull, we raced past blurred hillsides, our fingers twitching on the brakes, our brains memorizing a string of images – Tibetan men chasing a herd of goats, smoke rising through the sparse fabric of nomad tents, sunburned children yelling tashi delek, a yak swimming a deep river pool. It felt fluid and effortless. After years of bike touring, I still love big downhills the best because it feels like flying.


We stopped at the bottom of the pass, relaxed in a field of wildflowers and looked up at the gigantic treeless mountains around us. It was the perfect day and we were more than happy to be bike touring through the backwaters of Tibet. Not only because we were the only two people in the world doing it, but it had been a rough year for this mystical scarred land and getting here was anything but easy… (the story continues on).


I wrote this feature story after the riots in March 2008.  My wife and I lived 2 blocks behind the Potala Palace, former home of the Dalai Lama.  After several months, we were able to get into the countryside again.  There were only about 15 westerns left in the Tibet Autonomous Region and we were definitely the only people in the TAR on mountain bikes.  This story originally appeared in the April 2009 issue Adventure Cyclist Magazine.  It’s available for reprints in the USA and first rights in Asia, Europe and Australia. Contact me for details.

Two Africas – Biking South Africa & Botswana

Posted by: Nathan Ward    Tags:      Posted date:  January 1, 2011
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Elephants heading to water at sunset, Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana

Text & Photographs by Nathan Ward


A mere fifty yards away, the young male elephant stamped the ground, dust billowing around his mammoth body as he tossed his long trunk into the air, smelling.  With our scent in his nostrils, he thrust his ears forward to look bigger and raised his head to show us the white spears of his tusks.  He dripped and raged with the hormones of musth inside him, becoming dangerous and unpredictable.  We just sat blissfully on our bikes watching him come toward us like we were in our living rooms watching the animal channel.  


Our Botswanan guide Mosa was frantically whispering “Let’s go!  Ride!  Ride!”  We finally got the message and tore out after Mosa who was already moving up the trail, his .458 elephant rifle bouncing heavily against his back.  When the guide with the gun leaves, it’s prudent to follow…


I shot and wrote this story on assignment for Adventure Cyclist magazine and it appeared in their October/November 2010 issue. It details a fabulous guided trip offered by Cycle Mashatu out of South Africa.

The full story is available for reprint in the USA or first rights in Asia, Europe and Australia. Please contact me for details.

Nepal – The End of the Annapurna Circuit

Posted by: Nathan Ward    Tags:      Posted date:  December 4, 2010
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The Nepalese and Chinese recently completed a road along what was once the western half of the famed Annapurna Circuit – once the most famous trekking route in the world.  We traveled to the region before the road was finished and road our mountain bikes counterclockwise around the Annapurna Circuit.  One side remained beautiful and traditional, the side with the road was something different.  Not something better.  They are now building a road up the eastern side of the Annapurna Circuit and when it’s finished in a couple of years, the days of the Annapurna Circuit will be over.

Now there are roads completed to both the southern and northern borders of the mythical Kingdom of Mustang.  Will Mustang be the next wild area sacrificed to the desire to connect the markets of China to the markets of India?  Choose to fight for the few wild area left on Planet Earth.