One of the subtleties of aging is recognizing our own idiosyncrasies in others. Things we thought only existed in our minds, turn out as recognizable and common among us all. At some point in my professional life, I recognized and accepted my own inability to predict the future and maybe to even understand the present. We don’t really try to predict what is to be, but rather we extrapolate what’s happening today into tomorrow.
A few of my clients share my interest in fishing with an angle, and fewer still in fishing a simple hook wrapped in fur and feathers, i.e., fly fishing. I spent a few days last month on an island in the most northern stretch of Lake Michigan attempting to catch a carp on a fly. Not any carp, mind you, but fish up to 40 pounds. Growing up in the Midwest, I learned early how to catch fish, filet fish, and cook fish that were caught. Early on, I was taught the best part of fishing was eating fish caught earlier that same day. The idea of intentionally fishing for a rough fish, like carp, was incomprehensible. But here we were, on Beaver Island, throwing flies for carp in an incredible watershed.
Friends Steve and Kevin have guided the summers on Beaver Island for the past 15+ years and for much of that time have offered to guide me and for 15+ years, I have found an excuse not to go. But this year, I ran out of excuses. I met my friend, Joe up in Frankfort, Michigan and we drove north to the town of Charlevoix to catch the ferry boat to the island. We were set up for 4 days of fishing and upon setting foot on Beaver Island, were immediately met by Steve who would guide us during those 4 days. We had been informed prior to booking the trip that we would be fishing out of a small 16-foot tillered skiff and that the weather was always an issue when fishing the Big Lake in a small boat.
The first day was amazing. We met Steve for breakfast and were soon on the water. Once out of the bay, small waves of 1-2 feet made the journey from the island to the fishing flats an adventure in the small boat. I had trust in Steve, our skipper at the tiller, a licensed coast guard captain. But even the small waves made us feel like a cork in an ocean and every wave we broke made an impact with the water felt way down in one’s lower spine. Moving through the Lake, even in calm waters was jarring. In about half an hour we were on the flats. The northern waters of Lake Michigan are among the most beautiful waters I have ever witnessed. The watercolor is a blue green like the glacial waters of Alaska and the clarity like the Caribbean, easily 30 feet. Although I have fished other areas of the Big Lake, I had never realized its waters were so picturesque. Joe was up first on the bow platform, flyrod in hand eying the waters for fish. Steve was high up on the back transom, 10 feet off the water poling like a Venetian Gondolier eying the waters for our quarry like an Osprey in the air. Soon a pod of carp was seen feeding in the crystal-clear waters and ever so gingerly Steve poled us closer without a sound like a turtle-shark moving through the water closing the distance to its prey. When we were within casting distance, Joe began casting the fly line in tight loops through the air, each false cast inching closer to the fish. Once the perfect distance was obtained, he dropped the line and the fly to the water in an effort to place the fly inches in front of the carp without announcing his presence and thus spooking the fish. But the fish proved to be skittish, and it took successive attempts to present the fly and get the strike. Not an easy endeavor but, with practice, we were hooking and landing fish. For the remainder of that day and the next we caught massive carp and a few small mouth bass in the crystalline waters. After fishing for carp for 2 days, we decided to target the gigantic bass and Northern Pike also home in these waters on days 3 and 4.
I woke early on day 3, eager for Joe and me to meet Steve for breakfast and to spend the day fishing for bass and pike. But this morning the weather was different. The winds had shifted and were blowing from the south at 10+ knots. Forecast was for increasing winds throughout the day and the waves were building, forecast to be over 4 feet. Not necessarily large by Lake Michigan standards, but prohibitive for a small skiff. We met Steve and were told that we would wait it out and see if the winds and waves abated. They did not. We awoke on day 4 to stronger winds and bigger waves. We would only fish 2 days on this 4-day trip.
Although I had been told that it was likely we would not fish all 4 days, after two beautiful days I assumed the next two would be the same. I had predicted that the weather would be similar for all 4 days after experiencing 2. Its human nature that we extrapolate our recent past into the future. I have read that we developed this trait as hunter/gatherers on the Savannah thousands of years ago. While moving along if the grassed moved abruptly heed was taken. Most likely it was the wind or small game moving through the grasses, but sometimes it was a lion. Those that took heed passed on their genes to us, those that paid no heed did not!
The markets have been cooperative as of late growing our portfolios and net worth along the way. Unconsciously we extrapolate this growth and assume similar in the future. If the markets are up over 20% in the last 12 months, shouldn’t we expect at least 10% during the next 12? Just like Lake Michigan’s weather, the markets are unpredictable. Sometimes the winds blow just right, and the fishing is superb, other times the wind’s velocity increases and the waters become untenable. Either way, it’s good to have a guide.
As always, we thank you for your business and for your continued trust.
Jack P. Cannata