As modern day ecologists, conservationists and explorers go, there are very few people that compare with Mike Fay. From his fabled Megatransect (a massive journey on foot across the Congo basin) where he surveyed the environmental and ecological impacts on the region, to his pioneering work establishing and protecting national parks in Gabon, Central African Republic and elsewhere, Fay’s influence will be felt long after he is gone.
I was around 8 years old (1964), when I caught my first fish. It was about a 12-inch rainbow trout on the American River in California. Unfortunately, it was on spinning gear. My first fly-fished fish was a brown trout on the Beaverkill River in New York.
The jobs I have had, according to age, are as follows: reptile collector (age 6-8), card pitcher, golf ball retriever and reseller, mistletoe collector, skipjack fisherman, lawn mower, house cleaner, wood worker, golf caddy, Atlantic mackerel fisherman, maintenance man, fly-fishing guide (age 15-16 Maine), Atlantic cod fisherman, waiter, plant collector, bird guide (17-18 Alaska), farm hand, honey bee researcher, plant materials specialist, lab assistant, fish culturalist, botanist, elephant researcher, gorilla researcher, park prospector, park warden, park director, country director, Special Council Presidential level, Technical Director of National Park Gabon, National Geographic Explorer, Coordinator Gabon Blue project, WCS conservationist, boat captain, pilot, fly-fishing guide (62-64).
Each day I get up at 0515, drink a cup of coffee with milk and sugar, and either keep walking, flying, or kayaking, doing conservation prospection work in northern Central African Republic, or tending to park management chores.
I have lived in Southern California, Northern California, Tucson, Arizona, southeast and western Alaska, Tunisia, Central African Republic and Gabon. But home is usually where my tent is pitched. I don’t have a house.
Right now the rocky rivers of eastern Central African Republic, coastal Gabon and the wild salmonid waters of the Alaska Peninsula are what I would describe as my home waters.
The best advice I have ever been given was, ‘Don’t ever do anything to make money, and never take a loan.’
What I am most proud of is the creation of 13 national parks and 20 marine reserves and parks in Gabon.
Read the rest of Mike’s Lifer in issue 27 of The Mission. As always, it’s free.