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What happens when a self-proclaimed world-renowned fly-fishing expert and guide retraces Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It”?

The film, “Hank Patterson’s Reel Montana Adventure” lands in Helena Friday, bringing with it a comical look at fly-fishing through the eyes of a character described as “the most confident and possibly most inept fishing guide you would ever experience.”

Hank Patterson was the brainchild of Travis Swartz, who plays Hank, and his friend Reese Ferguison. The duo decided to make a film two and a half years ago supporting Reel Recovery, an organization that takes cancer patients fishing as part of their recovery. Ferguison was one of the clients.

“So we came up with this character with all the confidence and knowledge and it took off,” Swartz said. “I realized there isn’t a lot of humor in fly fishing but there’s a lot of really funny, really entertaining people.”

And Hank Patterson was born -- a mix of a possible subconscious renaming of his dad’s dog Hank and Facebook friend Michael Patterson, he said. The films became an Internet hit as Hank Patterson’s lighthearted approach clicked with audiences and even those in the industry he tends to poke fun at.

“People always ask if I think people take fishing too seriously, but I don’t think that’s for me to judge,” Swartz said. “People can take it as seriously as you want, but I do think there’s room for humor and room to laugh.”

Swartz has ties to Helena as well. His nephew played football for Carroll College and Hank wears a Carroll sweatshirt in his films. But Hank is “a high school graduate, makes a hell of a nice pot roast and owns three copies of ‘A River Runs Through It’ on Blu-ray”, according to

The newest Hank Patterson film takes on what many consider the gold standard of fly-fishing meets philosophy in Maclean. The book and subsequent movie takes audiences into the deepest meanings of family, tragedy and understanding through time spent on the water.

Described as, “11 days, 7 rivers, 15,678 miles, one caddis, 137 breakfast burritos, two broken hearts and six crew members,” Hank’s Montana trip shows that even “A River Runs Through It” can draw some laughs.

“It’s definitely Hank trying to experience Norman Maclean’s Montana, but imagine when he gets to the Blackfoot and then discovers it was shot on the Gallatin,” Swartz said.

The Helena screening will take place at Grandstreet Theater Friday, March 20, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the show starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12, and available at Crosscurrents, Montana Fly Goods and Wolf Creek Anglers or online at

Crosscurrents will host a pre-screening party barbecue with Hank in attendance in the parking lot across from the downtown shop at 4:30 p.m. Food donations and raffle proceeds go to the Pat Barnes Trout Unlimited chapter. Prizes include breakfast with Hank at Steve’s Café and an Orvis package.

“We’ve done a collection of fly-fishing film tours, but having something comedic is completely different,” said Jennifer Harris of Crosscurrents. “Having him here in person will be pretty awesome.”

Swartz's nephew, Dane Broadhead, played a part in getting the film here, and Harris anticipates the humorous approach will resonate with anglers and nonanglers alike -- a sentiment that Swartz echoed.

“It’s a really good time if you’re going to drag someone that doesn’t fly-fish to a fly-fishing event, they’ll enjoy it as much as you do,” he said.

The fishing industry is made up of a small group of people with everyone seeming to know each other, he said. Swartz enjoys his alter ego and getting to meet his fans at events across the country and making people laugh, he added.

“I always wanted to make a fly-fishing film, but didn’t want to make just another film that looks like everything else,” he said. “Overall, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of really nice people that treat me really well. That’s why I’m there, to have a good time with people.”

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Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 or


Natural Resources Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter / Assistant Editor for The Independent Record.

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