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Hank Patterson: World's Greatest Fly Fishing Guide?

Posted by Jim Mize on August 2, 2017

We talk to Travis Swartz, the man who plays Hank Patterson in a humorous fly fishing series on YouTube.

You probably haven’t heard of Travis Swartz. He plays the part of Hank Patterson in a number of YouTube videos that help fly fishermen laugh at themselves. He has grown into the character such that it is hard to think of him as anyone but Hank. I recently caught up with Hank at the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Expo.

Subscribe to Rethink:Rural's monthly e-newsletterHank introduced himself to the audience with a few of his credits.

“Fly Fisherman Magazine named me Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year in perpetuity. American Angler named me the World’s Greatest Guide. Since no one fishes on other planets, I’m going with best in the universe.”

Hank’s story on how he got started is funny both in truth and in fiction. The fiction version goes like this:

“At seventeen, my mother sat me down and asked me, ‘Do you know what you’re really good at?’

I said, ‘No.’

She said, ‘Me neither.’”

Afterwards, Hank said the first video started as an entry to a Drake Magazine contest. His buddy wanted to win a Go-Pro camera, the top prize, and saw there was a category for humor. They entered, won, and have been producing humorous videos ever since.

Hank, the character of the videos, takes positions opposite the norm to create the tension that makes us laugh. Often, you will find a nugget of truth in his position, an ingredient that makes humor that much funnier.

So when Hank asks the audience who wants to ask a question, and someone raises their hand, he gives them the question he wrote. They get to ask a question, but not their question.

For instance, he has them ask him whether we should take kids fishing and get them interested in the outdoors. Then he responds:

“Not all of them. We need a few to grow up as nerds. Otherwise, who is going to fix your computer?”

“And some kids just need to be left at home. Like the kid that always steals your hat and runs around the house and won’t give it back. Do you want to take that kid camping and spend the whole weekend chasing your hat?”

His videos may be found on his YouTube channel or you can connect to them from a link at his website HankPatterson.com. Some of his earliest videos have now been viewed more than 200,000 times -- and the new ones are gaining on them.  

In the videos, he makes his living off only one client, whom he says enables this because he’s a good tipper. Hank’s key credential is that he owns a copy of A River Runs Through It on Blu-Ray. And his advice is so contrary to the truth you chuckle at the thought that somewhere out there is a viewer who might be believing all this.

In short, the guide Hank portrays is so self-important and inept, it just makes you laugh.

Jim Mize

Jim Mize has written humor and nostalgia for magazines including Gray's Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman Magazine, Field & Stream, and a number of conservation magazines, picking up over fifty Excellence In Craft awards along the way. His most recent book, a collection of humor for fly fisherman entitled A Creek Trickles Through It, was awarded best outdoor book in 2014 by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. More on Jim and his writing activities can be found at acreektricklesthroughit.com

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