Monday, October 1, 2012

20 Questions: Hank Patterson

A few weeks back, I had the good fortune to stumble across the first two episodes of "The REEL Adventures of Fly Fishing Expert Hank Patterson," on Facebook, and I've been laughing ever since.

I'm not sure if it was the Minico High School sweatshirt (which makes him an honest-to-God Idaho farm boy) Hank wore on camera for Episode Two, or if it was the "I almost can't tell if this dude is joking" delivery the videos offer up to the viewers, but I think the show's creators, Trout Jousters, are onto something. For those of us who've fished for years, we've all come across the odd guide or two who might have been a little less skilled than he or she initially let on, and I think Hank Patterson does a great job emulating some of the "experts" out there who might take themselves just a bit too seriously.

The short episodes are well done, and Hank, played convincingly by Travis Swartz (no, sadly, he's a not a real dude), is unabashedly confident in his angling prowess, even going so far as to invent new trophy fish to pursue--who hasn't wanted to tangle with an 18-inch native brownbow, right?

Hank Patterson
I think Hank Patterson is just what fly fishing needs at a crucial time in the craft's evolution--either we can figure out a way to laugh at ourselves now and then, or we can continue to think that everything we do is utterly serious and tediously pure. I'm all for the former--we've all had moments on the water where we've been made the fool, either by the fish or ourselves. Hank Patterson, the fly fishing expert that he is, might be our penance for the perception many have of fly fishing ... that it's too stuffy and that we, as fly fishers, are too exclusive... too snobby.

I hope fly fishers will embrace Hank as one of us, and I hope those who don't yet fly fish will look at Hank and be inspired to take up the sport, knowing that we, just like the bass fishers out there, can have a good chuckle at our own expense.

Thanks, Travis, for creating Hank, and thanks Hank, for reminding us that it's not blasphemy to throw a little slapstick into the fly fishing world. God knows we need it now and then.

On with the questions:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 
I often experience perfection on the water. The result of that perfection is happiness. It has nothing to do with catching and everything to do with the simplicity of losing myself in the moment. A good hard snap of the line. The fly slappin' down like bullet. White water rooster tailing' off my skating fly. A hot sun tempered by a cool breeze coming off the water. Just waiting for a fish to hit… It all ads up to perfection. It also helps if I don't have to urinate. I can't tell you how many times I've been lost in the moment and suddenly have to urinate which totally screws up the moment I'm lost in. Then I gotta wade to edge of the water, shimmy out of my waders and pee. And 65.7 percent of the time I end up peeing, just a little, inside my waders. Moment ruined. Anyway, perfection and happiness is all that junk I said earlier but only if I don't have to urinate.

What is your greatest fear?
Wombat going for the neck.
Wombat. I tie three "go to" flies that require the belly fur of an adult male wombat and I can tell you from experience that a wombat is a mean S.O.B. no matter how tenderly and gently you pet his belly. You can talk to a wombat in a soothing voice and coo at him, but the minute you take a tug on that belly fur, he'll lunge straight at your jugular vein. Wombat's don't bite to injure, they bite to kill. Damn right I fear wombats. You should too.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? 
I'd have to say Norman Maclean. He wrote the book "A River Runs Through It," and I watched the movie on Blu-Ray about a hundred times. I have 18 hardback copies of that book prominently displayed throughout my home. I'm totally gonna read it someday. In the meantime, Craig Scheffer and Brad Pitt should both be awarded about a hundred Oscars each for their performances in the movie. They totally nailed it. My favorite quote from the film? "Oh, I'll never leave Montana, Brother." Either that or that thing about half light in canyons and whatnot.

Alive and well?
Which living person do you most admire? 
Elvis. I'm not at liberty to elaborate. Suffice it to say that Elvis is the living person I most admire. He's a hell of a dry fly fisherman and a master of disguise.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 
Self loathing is the enemy of progress. I spend an average of 6.7 hours each and every day meditating. My meditations are 98.2 percent visualizations of catching feisty, gynormous trout. The other 1.8 percet is spent conquering any and all self-loathing and doubt. I deplore nothing about myself, instead I choose to love both the positive and negative that make Hank Patterson the fisherman, brain, athlete, basket case, princess, criminal and Breakfast Club fan that he is. I will say this… I have a mole on my right thigh that is a dead ringer for a silhouette of an actual mole (the animal) that I deplore. I get pretty tired of hearing the words "that mole looks like a mole!"

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Selfishness. People don't take the time to think about how their actions and decisions effect those around them. Me included. We're all guilty, to some degree, of selfishness from time to time. The trick is to make the distance between "from time" to "time" as wide and vast as possible. Didn't expect that answer, did ya? I'm a damn fine philosopher when I need to be.

What is your favorite journey? 
I love any and every journey so long as the destination is a river filled to bursting with native trout. Hell, I'd go to Siberia or even Paris so long as they have trout waters.

On what occasion do you lie? 
Whenever it gets me what I want. There's no shame in lying to get what you want. Actually, that's a lie. You should never lie unless you're lying about lying and then it's ok because then it's more funny than harmful. Then again, you shouldn't even begin to believe this answer because the whole thing could be a lie. There's a good chance I'm a pathological liar, but how would you know? You wouldn't because I would lie and say I'm a pathological teller of truths. Anyway, I can do 500 push-ups in less than 20 minutes and I've been dating Natalie Portman off and on for about seven months.
Not sure why Hank has a problem with Carl's Jr. ... 

Which living person do you most despise? 
Whoever in the hell it is that writes the television ads for Carl's Jr. If your demographic is total douchebags who seem to lack the ability to use a damn napkin, then those ads are spot on. In the mean time, please FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, Carl's Jr., fire that guy and put me out of my misery. Every single Carl's Jr. ad literally makes me want to throw up.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 
"You don't have to tell me I'm real smart and handsome." If people want to toss around compliments, I should give them the pleasure of doing so. My humility often gets in the way of a good compliment.

What is your greatest regret? 
I was at a party in Missoula in '87 and that really hot gal from the television show Party of Five was there and we were both pretty drunk on Schaeffer Light and she asked me if I wanted to go streaking through a 7-11 and I said no because I "had next" on the ping pong table. My buddy Doug ended up going with her and they totally made out, nude, next to the Slushie machine. That could've been me making out with the gal from Party of Five but instead I lost a ping pong match to that dumbass bass player from the band Slayer.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? 
Fly Fishing is the "what." The "who" was a lady I met at the bridge on Silver Creek in '04. My good lord you shoulda seen that woman cast a fly. SNAP! Like a dominatrix on a mission to bring all living, breathing trout to submission. She could smack a fish dead center in the eye from a hundred yards. Is there anything in this world more beautiful and alluring than a woman fly fishing? Never caught her name but damn if she didn't capture Hank's heart.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
I saved a pack of 12 kids from certain death when the mini van they were riding in spun out of control, caught fire and was left hanging by a thread on the edge of a cliff on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado in '97. That was a hell of an achievement. Still get Christmas cards from the families. BUT the greatest achievement? I taught my dog to barbecue perfect stream-side steaks over an average campfire.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? 
Grizzly bear. On the seven occasions I've had to spend true, quality time with Grizzlies, I've found an understanding and a kinship that is often missing betwixt myself and the human race. I look into the eyes of a grizzly and I see family… really, really angry and hungry family, but family none the less.

What is your most treasured possession? 
My fly rod and my fly reel and my other fly rod but not my other reel because it's a piece of crap and the drag never did work on that son of a bitch.

Where would you like to live? 
Island Park, Idaho. I shouldn't have to explain that answer.

Who are your favorite writers? 
JD Salinger, Louis L'Amour and the guy who wrote Lonesome Dove. If I was born a couple hundred years back I would've probably hung out with Call and Gus driving cattle north to Montana. I'd have taken a little extra time to fly fish along the way and I never would've gotten mixed up with that whore… Come to think of it, I would've never bothered with Call and Gus, I'd have put a cabin on the Yellowstone River and fished every day.

What’s on your iPod? 
Episodes One and Two of The Reel Adventures Of Fly Fishing Expert Hank Patterson. I also have music by: Hillfolk Noir, The Lumineers, Son Volt, Reckless Kelly, Joe Jackson, Big Back 40, Uncle Tupelo and Chickasaw Mudd Puppies.

What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now? 
I'd most likely be training fighter pilots. Training fighter pilots is simply a natural fit for me.

If there is a Heaven, and you go to Heaven, what would God say to you upon your arrival? 
That hopper with a hopper dropper and a dropper hopper rig is killer, Hank. Feel free to kick them pearly gates the hell out of your way and get in here. We're goin' fishin', son!

What’s the favorite of all the cars you’ve ever driven? 
Datsun B-210. You treat a B-210 right and she'll never let you down. Keep oil in the engine, keep a case of duct tape in the trunk and keep her under 65 and you'll never fail to reach your destination.

BONUS QUESTION: If you could go back in time, what year would you visit first? 
1988. I'd find me and tell me to hang on to that 9' 5-weight Powell rod that I traded for a case of PBR and a red leather jacket. Damn good beer, but in hindsight that was a pretty lame jacket.


  1. This Hank Patterson character is the funniest thing to come along since...Twenty Questions. Nice going guys. Hank where do you get your 89 cent flies?

  2. Just as funny as the videos, and your point is well taken- we all take ourselves far too seriously. I'm grateful that Hank has put some fun back in fly fishing. Snap it!

  3. Eighty nine cents!

    Well done, Chris.

  4. Thanks guys... this was a fun one. And thanks to Travis and "Hank!"

  5. I think I've run into this guy out on the jetty - difference was he was smart enough not to try to cast. Just walked out, told us about all the fish he'd catch, and then left.

    Good times, good times.

  6. I know one "name" fly-fishing writer who would be right there with the Datsun B-210.

  7. Reckless Kelly makes him cool in my book. This might be funnier than T!'s interview!

  8. This is at times scary, disturbing and trout-blesome, BUT I COULDN'T STOP READING. Now I feel the need to burn out my eyes and take up quilting......Nice piece of writing!

  9. That was great to read Chris, now on to watch the video's.