Monday, July 28, 2008

Private Client Commentary - fishing

Dear Clients,

While I found no correlation between the Alaskan Salmon Run and the direction of the U.S. stock market, of course I discovered a nice little metaphor in my experience.

We arrived in Alaska late afternoon last Monday with great anticipation of fishing the legendary Kenai River, where in 1985, an unsuspecting angler pulled a world record ninety seven pound king salmon from the water - where in most years, forty to seventy pounders are the norm. We woke Tuesday morning to drizzling rain and a reported temperature of 50 degrees - felt like 40. At the end of six hours of hard fishing and marveling at the breathtaking beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, we left the water with one twenty two pounder "in the box" (caught by my son Nick). Not what we expected, but hey, that's fishing, you have to take the good with the bad. Our guide, a 20+ year veteran with thousands of fish under his clients' belts, did all he could to find fish that either weren't there or weren't in the mood.

Day two; raining hard, 50 degrees - feels like 30 something. Fishing a new spot with a new guide, who the day earlier managed to help his clients land four beauties ranging from thirty to forty-five pounds. Okay I thought, today's the day, after all this is Alaska! Six hours later we left the water with just two "in the box", a very respectable thirty six pounder caught by my good friend Dan, and a spunky eight pound sockeye salmon caught by Nick. But hey, that's fishing, you have to take the good with the bad.

Day three (our last day); same spot as day two; raining hard, windy, 50 degrees - feels like 30, make that 20. In spite of our limited success the first two days, we had reason to be hopeful. The previous day, the fisherman who took the afternoon float with the same guide on the same water we fished that morning; caught their limits within three hours - ranging from thirty five to a whopping fifty four pounds. Looks like a new surge of salmon were making their move up river. Six hours later, on this last day of our trip, we left the river with one "in the box", a very nice twenty six pounder landed by my son Nick. But hey, that's fishing, you have to take the good with the bad. BUT HEY, THIS IS ALASKA! EVERYONE SAYS IT'S THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD FOR CATCHING SALMON! THERE'S SUPPOSED TO BE A LOT MORE GOOD THAN BAD! Of course later that day, while we bid our farewells to the guides and the other fisherman, we learned that they had already fared-well that afternoon - a fresh run of kings came through just after we left the water and everyone caught their limits.

If we simply stayed in the water, or stayed another day or two, we would have certainly gotten our money's worth. Which is of course the message - it makes sense to fish waters that have delivered for decades, while accepting that some seasons may not meet our expectations. Everyone says the stock market is the best place in the world to invest your long-term money. But, just like fishing, there will always be periods when it feels awfully cold outside and nothing wants to bite.

Successful long-term investors take their cue from successful fisherman - they remain in the water, and simply weather the inevitable ups and downs.

See you soon,

p.s. Please don't feel sorry for me for not landing a fish. Having spent five days with my son and a good friend in the most beautiful place I've ever seen was an amazing and wonderful experience. I realized that first afternoon, as the three of us were in complete awe of Alaska's unparalleled beauty during the three hour drive from the airport to the river, that whether or not Mother Nature yields us a salmon was of no importance whatsoever. I thought I was going to Alaska to catch a fish, but as it turned out, I went to Alaska for an unforgettable experience with people I care about

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