Meet our ambassadors - Israel Patterson

A man holds a fish with its head in the water

1. How did you get introduced to the outdoors? Was there a particular moment when you realized 'This is the life for me?'?

I was introduced to the outdoors through my parents.  My father was the one who hunted and fished, but mom was always there to encourage it, and loved to take us camping as well.  It’s funny, my mom is actually the first thing I remember catching.  I buried a Mepps spinner into her arm on the shores of Lake Allatoona GA.   From my memory she wound up getting medical attention to remove it, but that was 30 years ago and the memory is a bit fuzzy.

I never really had an “ah ha” moment.  Fishing and the outdoors is just something I have always done, always just been a part of who I am. 


2. What is it about fishing that you enjoy so much?

Peace.  When I’m on the water I’m not thinking of anything else but what is right in front of me.  I’m not worried about mortgage payments, oil changes, past trauma, or anything else.  I just focus on the water, the wind, the animals around me, what the clouds are doing.  The river is my sanctuary, and while I love fishing I try to live by the words of Zane Grey “to capture the fish, is not all of the fishing.” What I enjoy most is the adventure. Seeing and being somewhere new, experiencing different cultures and environments, and forging long standing relationships along the way.  Fishing has taken me to some of the most remote and pristine environments available today, and provides me with the comradery I felt in the Marine Corps.  While fishing is the excuse that gets me there, it’s experiencing the culture and new environments that I enjoy the most.


3. Is there a particular style of fishing that you prefer? What is it and why? (More than just fly vs conventional)

I love small streams.  Being able to walk and wade your way up a cool mountain stream, having that anticipation of not knowing what is around that next bend.  Growing up in Georgia and South Carolina, I mainly bass fished out of a boat on reservoirs.  When we went camping in the mountains it was always on a creek that had trout.  I think because those camping trips were a different kind of fishing than I normally did, it created this mystic quality around small streams, that still endures today.  

4. If you could visit any destination to fish, where would it be? What is your dream species to pursue? 

Currently I would say Thailand and the Mahseer.  I love Thai food, have not experienced that culture. The Mahseer also seems to be a little know fish for anglers in the western hemisphere.

Alaska is also always at the top of the list.  I have a deep love for Alaska, from jigging for Halibut to chasing Steelhead.  Alaska is magical and is one of the only places that I love returning time and again.


5. What are your dreams and goals when it comes to fishing? A grand slam? Catching a fish on a certain fly?  

I want to catch a squid on a fly rod.  Outside of that my goals are to catch as many different species as I can in as many locations as I can, have fun fishing with great people, and pass the torch on to the next generation.  I love showing people the glory of the outdoors and all that fishing has to offer, and help to stoke their passion for it.  One of my most memorable guide trips was a client from England.  He had never fished before, and after a couple of fish, he looked at me and said “I can see why people love to do this so much.”  I live for that.


6. Do you ever eat what you catch? If so, what is your favorite way to prepare them?

Absolutely.  Fun fact, I have a degree in Culinary Arts and love to cook sea food.  I am very fortunate, and usually make it up to Alaska each year and bring back Salmon, Halibut, and Rockfish.  Having been raised in the south, most of the fish I ate as a child was fried, so I usually shy away from frying.  The exception is a nice pretzel crusted Rockfish. My favorite is Halibut stuffed with a crab imperial.  Broiled salmon is a big hit in my house, usually done with a teriyaki based glazed. I also enjoy the simple yet amazing grilled fish, with a lemon, butter, dill sauce.  Lastly, I love a good ceviche, and am also known to take a slice of sashimi right off the fillet table.  


7. With many threats facing the outdoors, be it global warming, loss of habitat, mineral extraction etc, What worries you the most? Are you involved in any conservation groups or movements to oppose these things? 

I would say habitat loss. Resources and habitat are finite, once it’s lost it is incredibly difficult to get back.  I’m a Lifetime member of Trout Unlimited, a member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and member of AFFTA.  I have written elected officials, and educate clients when guiding by pointing out degradation to the environment when on trips.  I have also eliminated the use of single use plastic water bottles on guided trips.  


8. If you could fish with any celebrity, alive or dead. Who would it be? 

Hunter S. Thompson.  Anyone who can write like that has to be a blast on the water.  I’ve been fortunate and have guided NFL, MLB, Olympic gold medalist, Billboard top 40 artist, and a few CEOs.  Most are down to earth and just like any other clients.

9. What is your favorite piece of RepYourWater gear? 

Functionally the sun hoodies.  My mom gave me her red headed genes and I don’t tan.  More pressing though is each year I hear of another guide getting skin cancer cut off of them.  Those sun hoodies are about all I wear anywhere anymore.  From a personal stoke standpoint, the artist edition bluegill hat. Bluegill are my favorite fish and that lid looks amazing.


10. Tell us a little more about yourself, where did you grow up, where do you live, any family information you'd like to share etc. If you'd like to share anything about your time in the service that's cool too! 

I see a counselor for mental health.  I struggled and fought it 10 years before I finally sat down with someone and have just within the past year started to be able to fully enjoy and appreciate life as a whole.  There seems to be a big stigma surrounding metal health, especially in the veteran community, and there shouldn’t be.  I am especially tired of learning of more Marines that I served with taking their own lives.  I implore everyone, veteran or otherwise, to seek help, there is no shame in it, and I can assure you the world is better with you in it.

I was born in Georgia and raised in South Carolina and came out to Colorado following a stint in the Marine Corps.  I grew up fishing reservoirs for bass, and occasionally the salt marshes of Charleston for redfish and flounder with my father.  We would also take family camping trip to the mountains and fish for trout.

I left for the Marine Corps right out of high school in 2004 and was in until 2009. I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and did three deployments to various parts of Iraq during that time frame.  The stars were my refuge over there, as Iraq is the still the most amazing place I have ever seen the stars.  I was also able to have been on a boat on the Euphrates river during one of those deployments, which looking back was quite amazing.  

I currently live in the Fort Collins area of Colorado however I am currently packing my house will also be moving back to north Georgia in early June and am excited to be joining the Unicoi Outfitters Crew.  If you find yourself in Helen, GA swing by and say hello.

I have a wife and daughter, both of whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude to for being able to pursue my fishing and outdoor endeavors.  Without their encouragement, understanding, and many sacrifices I would not be able to pursue my dreams.  

The Bluegill is my absolute favorite fish.  Many reasons, but one of the main is that no matter where I go, I know I can always come home and slay bluegill with my daughter and wife.   

As a photographer I have been published in The Drake, and The Fly Tying Artist by Rick Takihashi.  My images have been used by RepYouWater, Umpqua, Fly Water Travel, Elfin Cove Resort, Kirk’s Fly Shop, Back Country Hunters and Anglers, and The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.  

My father passed away from colon cancer in October 2018.  This wrecked me and turned my refuge of fishing, into a quite painful activity.  Dad was always the first one I would call after a day on the water, and fishing turned from a place of safety and refuge to place of anger and hate.  Luckily my main fishing crew was patient and understanding, and continued to invite me out fishing. In early 2020 I went carping with my good buddy Steve Rogers and for whatever reason that day it was no longer painful.  I was able to fish and remember my father in a positive way, smiling while recalling our time together.  Since then it’s been back to how it was before his death, lots of fishing, and peace on the water.

A man pours wine into a pan on a camp stove
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1 comment

Beautiful story fantastically written


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