Closer look: Mystery of the Cuttyrainbrown Trout

The latest film from world renowned fly fishing expert Hank Patterson

Admit it. You chuckled the first time someone sent you the YouTube link to that first “Hank Patterson” fly fishing video. The goofy, over-the-top personality of the know-it-all guide, parts of which we all recognized from our various fly fishing adventures.

It was a comedic mix of the surly Keys flats captain who ridicules your cast and blames everything on you and the upstart fly fishing “guide” who starts a blog and is suddenly a world-renowned expert.

We loved it, at least according to the YouTube viewership numbers. And we wanted more.

Now, a few years after that initial video streamed across fly fishing community’s social media networks, filmmaker Travis Swartz (aka Hank Patterson) has turned Hank into something of a cottage industry, with dozens of short and funny videos to his credit and two “feature-length” films, the second of which is debuting in community theaters all across America this winter and spring.

The film, “Hank Patterson and the Mystery of the CuttyRainBrown” lit up the screens in Helena and Missoula, Mont., a week ago to the delight of packed houses in each venue, and it did, indeed, bring smiles to the faces of those attending.

“It was pretty funny,” said Bethany Williamson, a Missoula resident who doesn’t fly fish, but attended with her fly fishing date. “I think it’s good when people aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves, or at the things they do that not everybody understands.”

Indeed, Swartz has become a master at poking fun at fly fishers, who have responded by buying tickets to the film premieres and continually sharing and posting Hank videos all across the Internet.

The film itself is based loosely around the search for the mythical cuttyrainbrown trout that was allegedly spotted by angler somewhere near Picabo, Idaho. The film quickly becomes a haphazard road movie about a bungling guide and his equally clumsy film team that abandons a filming project for fly fishing sponsors and sets out to find the unicorn of all trout—the cuttyrainbrown.

“Now there’s a guide at the Picabo Angler, who allegedly talked to the alleged angler who allegedly saw the alleged fish. Allegedly,” Hank tells his misfit crew of roadies that includes his cousin Wally, a couple of hangers-on who help with the film project, a psychopathic hitchhiker, a host of surly anglers and guides and a smoking-hot yogi who reminds Hank of a past hookup.

Complete with just enough fishing action to keep the die-hards interested and some pretty entertaining slapstick comedy, the film is a worthwhile evening out, and not just because you’ll have a good time.

Swartz started the Hank Patterson institution after a friend of his (his early video partner who played the part of Reese, the client) was diagnosed with brain cancer. The idea was to raise money and awareness for the Reel Recovery program that helps men with cancer heal, both emotionally and physically, through fly fishing.

Since then, Swartz has picked up sponsorships from the likes of Trout Unlimited and a host of industry partners including Orvis and Simms. The film tour is being heavily promoted by TU, and Swartz works with local chapters and state councils to attend film screenings, offer discounted memberships, swag and the like.

“TU has been a huge partner in this whole venture,” Swartz said. “It’s great for us, because they help us market the screenings, and it’s good for the chapters that raise money and get some new members at the events.”

Swartz also just launched a new video intended to promote TU membership—you’ll love the surly guide attitude and the comedic—yet oddly inspiring—description of what TU is about and why it’s important that all anglers join.

Promotion aside, the new film is easily Swartz’s most-polished work to date. The videography is truly outstanding, the comedy is genuine and the fishing action is fun to watch. And, with screenings planned throughout the country over the next several weeks, it makes for a great opportunity to get out and enjoy some winter-time fly fishing activities without having to freeze yourself to the bone to do it.

Two screenings—one in Boise and one in Bend, Ore.—are already scheduled and more are planned in Jackson, Seattle and Livingston, among other locations. For details, visit the Hank Patterson website.