As part of our initiative to showcase the evolution of modern fly fishing films, we’ve selected films that highlight the wide diversity of fish, anglers, locations, and storytelling, often with an emphasis on the vital importance of conservation in our sport. These movies are both inspirational and aspirational, at times transporting viewers to remote locations that many may never experience firsthand. With the exception of Robert Redford’s ‘A River Runs Through It’, released in 1992, the vast majority of fly fishing media through the 1990s was still instructional in nature. On August 13 we’ll share a selection of the twenty films we’ve chosen to highlight in the AMFF gallery at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. All are influential in a variety of ways, with their biggest impact likely being the shift in perception from “how” a person fly fishes to “why” a person fly fishes.

As the beginning of a new blog series from AMFF, we sat down with Travis Swartz – the man behind the iconic Hank Patterson character – to get his thoughts on the inclusion of his first film in our exhibit “Top 20: Influential Films from the Past 20 Years”. See all twenty films in our Screening Room.

We are big fans of Hank Patterson – so much so that we have one of the first Reel Adventures featured in the Top 20 Influential Fly Fishing Films of all time! How does it feel to be included among these other great titles?

Humbling. The films, filmmakers and subjects of the other films are truly inspiring to me. I’m incredibly grateful to have Hank Patterson among them. The Reel Adventures film featured is the first ever fly fishing video I ever made. The experience of watching that film and the comedy of Hank Patterson resonate with the fly fishing community has been incredibly rewarding and fun. I very much appreciate the fly fishing community for welcoming Hank into the fold.

Where did the inspiration for Hank come from and was it modeled after anyone?

The Hank character is loosely based on a character I developed many years ago when doing live comedy shows. That character was an overly confident stand up comedian who was not funny. I took that character and made him a fly fishing guide. The idea was to create an egomaniacal fishing guide who’s complete lack of knowledge and skill is overshadowed only by his profound confidence. Hank is the absolute opposite of what any fishing guide should be. He is impatient, lazy, ignorant, self centered and unintentionally funny.

Can you share behind the scenes moments that were funny or created an obstacle for the first episode?

The first episode came together very quickly. My friend Reese Ferguison, who developed the idea with me and who plays Hank’s client, discovered the Drake Magazine fly fishing film competition had a humor category. He called and suggested we enter; the only catch being that the deadline was only two days away. I stayed up all night, wrote the script and we drove to the mountains early the next morning and shot the first episode. After shooting, I stayed up a 2nd night, edited the film and sent it to The Drake, barely making the deadline. Within two hours of receiving the film, Tom from The Drake called and let us know we’d won.

Why did you choose the pseudonym Hank Patterson and how has the character evolved?

I named Hank after my dad’s dog, Hank. For the last name, I scrolled through my Facebook friends list till a last name fit. Michael Patterson, a good friend of mine and Reese had the name that fit. Hank and the videos have evolved quite a bit from the early episodes. We unfortunately lost my buddy Reese to cancer in the 2nd year of producing Hank videos. He was such a big part of creating the videos that I honestly wasn’t sure how to move forward. Mostly I knew that I didn’t want to cast another side kick client and that the format for the videos would need to change. From that point forward, I decided to continually change style of the videos and the comedy to keep it fresh. I didn’t want to make the same video over and over. I believe comedy relies on surprising the audience and that the Hank videos are most successful when you didn’t see something coming.

At what point did you realize the fly fishing community had a desire for this type of content?

Two days after releasing the first video to YouTube, I woke up to find that it had 50,000+ views and was being shared by all my favorite fly fishing brands on social media… Orvis, SIMMS, The Drake, Reddington, LOON and many many more were sharing the video and the comments were amazing. We set out to make one video but the response was so great, we decided to continue. It’s been ten years since the first episode and every time I think it’s time to retire Hank, I’m reminded how lucky I am to be a part of the fly fishing community and I write a new idea.

What’s next for you and Hank Patterson?

Currently I produce the podcast Hank Patterson’s Outdoor MisAdventures and am shooting a series of short Hank videos to release this fall and winter. I’m never certain what I’ll do with Hank next, which is part of the fun.