Obituary: Michael Fong

Michael FongApril 26, 1939 ? June 14, 2002_- Obit by Bob Nauheim_Inside the reef the flat in front of us lay still. Yet out to sea, ten miles or so beyond, the sky brooded darkly, laced with lightening. The distant rumble of thunder rode the gentle easterly breeze carrying with it the scent of turtle grass. We could feel and taste the increasing humidity, a portent of the brewing storm. Mike Fong, his wife Christine, and I waded cautiously down the flat as the late afternoon sun sparkle off the tails and fins of hundreds of bonefish.We were on Guanaja in the Bay Islands of Honduras. It was the mid 70s. We had been invited there by the tobacco company who owned much of the island, evaluate the fishing and their executive hide-away, Pasada del Sol, as a possible bonefishing lodge operation. Our guides, an old man and his son, had never seen Polaroid glasses before and after presenting them each a pair, were totally amazed at what they now could see. It was wonderful moment in time, one that will always live in my mind's eye. It was the beginning of the many adventures Mike and I would share together.On June 14th of this year, returning from trout fishing in the Sierras, Michael Fong died from a sudden brain embolism. His loss has created a great void in many of our lives. Mike was a very knowledgeable fly fisher, an extremely accomplished writer, but most importantly, an all around good guy. Always smiling, the kind of fellow people just liked being around, Mike could laugh at you when you blew it, and even harder at himself when he did the same.Mike was born in Sacramento, California, the youngest of 10 children. His father had a laundry in nearby Folsom. It was a hard working family, but when time allowed, Mike and his brother, Bob, would ride their bicycles to nearby sloughs to fish, spawning his life long interest in the sport. Later he was to earn a BA and MFA in painting, then entered the lithography trade. Retiring in 1992, he and Chris devoted their time to the publication ''Inside Angler'', a ''where to go'' illustrated newsletter which gained a large circulation. Mike was not an inexperienced writer having done pieces for ''Outdoor Life'', Fly Fisherman'' and many other national publications. Mike and Chris were also correspondents and photographers for Fishing International, the fishing travel company where I work. Mike, along with Dan Blanton and me and other West Coast writers, was also on the original staff of ''Angler Magazine'' first published in the early 70s. A wife the likes of Christine, a world class photographer always there to record the fishing action, certainly helped Mike’s career. Mike and Chris had one child, their daughter, Corin, an angler in her own right.During the early years, the family traveled throughout the western states and Canada, Chris photographing and Mike writing about the fishing they found. Later they would venture farther afield from Alaska to Cuba. I was fortunate to share many days with Mike on the redwood-forested streams of California chasing salmon and steelhead. In the mid 70s, Mike, Chris and I took our first fly caught sailfish. It was a wonderful trip to southern Panama and Pinas Bay with a group of old friends that included Perk Perkins of Orvis, Jerry Gibbs of Outdoor Life, and my partner, Frank Bertaina. I fished Atlantic salmon for 6 seasons in Norway and one season Mike joined me. We fished the River Gaula out of Trondheim for a week then went north to the Namson. While on the Namson we me the party of the Crown Prince of Denmark. The prince, now the king, invited us to visit him at his lodge where after a Scotch or two, the three of us decided to do a little casting on the estates big lawn. The prince was a remarkable caster with his 16-foot Spey rod and asks us what kind of distance we could achieve with our little 9 footers. His majesty was amazed at the distance Mike and I could throw the line utilizing a shooting taper and the double haul and was eager to learn the technique that he indeed did.A large group of Mike's friends and family gathered on July 14th in San Francisco to say goodbye. Words were said by Christine, Lani Waller, Sandy Roerden of Orvis, Mel and Fanny Krieger, Marty Seldon, Nelson Ishiyama of Henrys Fork Lodge, Mike Michalak of the Fly Shop and by many others including myself. It was a gathering of anglers and family culminated by a slide show by Christine of their time together, of the adventures we had all shared with them on the flats and rivers, lakes and seas of the world. A light buffet and wine were served.One always hopes that there is a magic place where anglers go in the end. A place where the wind blows softly across the palm lined flats and where the sun is always at his back. A place where frigate birds glide across cloudless skies and the smell of the sea is strong and sweet. Where large schools of bonefish push across the tide, where tarpon roll in the lagoon, and where permit tail along the reef’s edge. If such a place exists, Mike is certainly there, working the edge of the feeding lane, laughing and casting. If such a place exists, when my time comes, I look forward to joining my old friend there.