Late last fall I flew myself up to our log home in Michigan for a few days of fishing, reading and relaxing. Alone in the North Woods, I spent the days fishing for Steelhead trout in the famous (at least in fly fishing circles) Pere Marquette River. The PM, as it is affectionately known by locals, was named for the French priest/explorer whose remains are said to rest at the confluence of the river and Lake Michigan. The river has been a mecca for fishermen in the Mid-west since the 1800’s when, now extinct, Michigan Grayling were caught in large numbers. After the logging boom of the late 19th century de-forested the region and brought about the extinction of the Michigan Grayling, other fish species were introduced. The river became famous during April 1884. On that date, the first European Brown Trout to swim in American waters were unceremoniously dumped into the river from milk pails in railcars high above the water. These fish were said to be of German origin and found their way to Michigan via a fish hatchery in upstate New York. The Brown trout thrived in these waters and have since been introduced in rivers in North and South America, New Zealand, and throughout the world. In fact, almost all U.S. trout streams now contain Brown trout.
Prior to the introduction of Brown trout in the river, Rainbow trout were planted in the Pere Marquette. Brought from the McCloud River in California, Rainbows are said to have been planted in the river in 1876. Legend has it that the Rainbows introduced in 1876 were not true Rainbow trout, but a variation, called Steelhead. You see Steelhead, also known as the Salmon trout, are anadromous fish. They are born in rivers, but soon head to the seas to fatten up, only to return to rivers to spawn. Repeating the process. In the Great Lakes, these fish use the lakes as their sea. They are born in the rivers, leave when only a couple inches in length, and return to spawn, several years later. The largest fish reach over 20 pounds in weight and over 3 feet in length. Adding to their sheer size, Steelhead are known as one of the best fresh water fighting fish when hooked. They run and shake and jump fearlessly from the water. Hooking and landing such a fish in the intimate waters of a smallish river on eight-pound test line is a fine-tuned effort.
This trip, I was accompanied by my friend and fishing guide, Walt Grau. I’ve been fishing with Walt for over 25 years. Countless hours of fishing, in all types of weather, have bonded our friendship. But on this particular outing, I had no luck and swore the river must finally be devoid of fish.
Sunday was my intended return home and since I had flown myself up, I spent the prior few days monitoring the weather. Prior to bed on Saturday evening, I once more reviewed the weather predictions on my iPad. The Chicago weather was expected to be bright sunshine, with highs in the 40’s. But West Michigan, and particularly Southwest Michigan was predicted to be socked in with low clouds and a wintery mix., weather that my airplane simply cannot
handle. When I awoke, the weather was as expected. To the south was socked in with clouds, and a combination of rain and sleet. The Chicago area weather was fine and eastern Wisconsin had clouds at 6000 feet, but no precipitation. I decided to go to the airport, fly out, and have a look. In the air, I could see the clouds and precipitation to the south, but weather to the west looked promising, an overcast layer of clouds at 6000-7000 feet and a fog layer over Lake Michigan, several hundred feet above the water. My plan was to fly west over the Lake to Door County, then follow the western shore of Lake Michigan south to the Chicago area and home. In the event of engine failure over the middle of Lake Michigan, I would not be high enough to glide the plane to shore. However, I was confident in my aircraft and its engine. Flying a plane with a single engine always provides mild concern. Without a back-up, the loss of engine power means landing the plane at the closest “landing site.” Since the pilot may not be within gliding distance of an airport, the landing site may be a farmer’s field, golf course, or simply a highway. Generally, these sites are readily available when flying in the Midwest. Of course, none of these exist in Lake Michigan. If you can’t glide to shore, ditching in the Lake is the only option and with water temps in the 40’s, not a very good option. But this day I was confident in my plane and its engine. Although the plane is almost 50 years old, the engine had been recently overhauled and was running exceptionally well.
While flying over the Lake attitudes begin to change. That exceptionally fine running engine seems to run a little rough and your mind drifts. The two gauges generally available to a pilot to assess the health of their engine, the oil temperature gauge and oil pressure gauge, begin to be monitored more closely. Like the proverbial watched pot, the gauges seemingly began to act unexpectedly. Did the oil temperature really increase? Is oil pressure going down? Fixating on the gauges is definitely not the way to go. In short order the Wisconsin coast was reached and another uneventful flight was recorded in my logbook.
Like monitoring instruments while flying over the Lake in a single engine aircraft, fixating on market indicators is generally not in anyone’s best interest. If you monitor your portfolio daily, you will witness all the effects of volatility on markets. Some days are up, and others down. The question is whether the effort is of value or if is it best to review your portfolio less often, say quarterly. Only you can decide, but we would suggest monitoring your investments less often provides a better overall picture and probably less angst.
As always, we thank you for your business and for your continued trust.
Jack P. Cannata