When he was in college, Sioux Falls resident Nick Bentele visited a friend in Colorado.
Bentele didn’t come from an outdoors family, but one morning in Colorado, his friend’s dad took the two out fly fishing. And Bentele was hooked.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I liked it,” said Bentele, who works full time at First National Bank. “I knew it needed to be part of my life.”
Now, Bentele is the star of “Blood Knot,” a fly fishing documentary on Amazon Prime, available to rent or buy. The film celebrates friendship as Bentele and his friends are shown fly fishing in Wyoming and Alaska last year.
“The film was an opportunity to help a young filmmaker turn his dream into a reality,” said Bentele, “but I also want the people in my life who are closest to me to know why it’s important and show them what the experience looks like .”
From concept to documentary
Isaac Honer is a filmmaker from Shawnee, Kansas. He became a freelance videographer at the beginning of 2021 after working for his father’s production company for several years.
Honer grew up “normal” fishing, but became interested in fly fishing after a family member showed him more about it.
“This became a little bit of a passion project as I wanted to learn more about it,” Honer said.
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How Sioux Falls local Nick Bentele became involved
Honer asked a former client of his if he knew an angler who could be a good subject for the documentary. That client was the brother-in-law of Bentele’s friend, Dave.
“It’s just kind of the way God works,” Bentele said. “I was in a men’s group a little over a decade ago with Dave. I hadn’t seen him in years, and now I was meeting Isaac for the first time to talk about making a documentary.”
Bentele reached out to his friend, Aaron Gerlovich, and together they planned a trip to Wyoming with Honer and his friend John Wilder in July 2021.
‘Blood knot’ theme of friendship
Honor had a specific theme in mind when he set out to make the film. He thought about having it showcase God’s creation and how people can interact with it, but as he got to know the two friends, his vision evolved.
He was surprised to learn Bentele and Gerlovich had only known each other for two years, saying they either looked like brothers or like they were friends of 30 years.
“I had to explain to him that’s what happens when you have a passion that you share with somebody else,” Bentele said. “You form an instant connection – a very, strong connection.”
That was when Isaac pivoted the focus of the film on friendship and the bond that forms from fishing together.
“One of the main things I wanted was for them to be themselves,” Honer said. “My job was to be a fly on the wall, recording them in those real moments. And this is what came from that.”
Bentele said it’s also where the title “Blood Knot” came from.
“A blood knot is used to connect two pieces of vine,” he said. “It’s famous for being a very strong knot. It’s very neat and simple, and it kind of plays into a blood brother-type thing. Aaron and I had just been out fishing like a couple of kids, doing what we always do, and I think Isaac did a good job of capturing what happens when we escape.”
Making connections fly fishing in Alaska
An hour after he and Gerlovich left Wyoming, Bentele called Honer and asked if he would want to go to Alaska with them the following month – a trip Bentele and Gerlovich were already planning to take with four other friends.
“It was pretty awesome how it worked out,” said Honor.
The Alaska part of the documentary was spur-of-the-moment, but the seven-day trip itself was what Heath Kooiman called “organized chaos.”
“It was quite the experience, that’s for sure,” Kooiman, Bentele’s friend from Sioux Falls, said. He first met Bentele about a decade ago, but Kooiman said he was still new to fly fishing when they went to Alaska. The first time he tried fly fishing with Bentele, he broke the rod.
“Watching what kind of sportsmen these other fishermen were amazing,” Kooiman said. “It was really educational, learning those different techniques, and I’m no longer absolutely terrible at it,” he added, laughing.
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The other three fishermen were friends of Gerlovich’s, and most members of the group didn’t know each other beforehand.
“It was great,” Bentele said. “Most of us had never been to these places before, and we got to get to know each other on the adventure.”
The crew took the RV around, often cramming wet loads inside. They cooked meals on cast iron skillets, sometimes even on the road while driving to save time. Each night they would recall what went well and think about what they might do the next day.
“That’s kind of the other extended metaphor of the title,” said Bentele. “When connecting the lines on a feeder, you have all these knots. Aaron and I have a very strong connection, but I was also connected to Heath, and Aaron was connected to Eric and Hunter and Joe. We showed up as complete strangers, most of us, that first day, and by the end of the week, we’re all connected, and we’re all very good friends.”
Life lessons from fishing
Fly fishing has taught Nick several life lessons, such as that approach matters. Presenting the fly to the fish so that it will take it, Bentele said, is like sharing your faith with another person or disciplining your children and meeting them at their level so they will listen.
“In fishing and in life, the slightest things can matter greatly,” he said.
Fly fishing also taught him to slow down and relax, and how to come back to a task with a fresh look, and how to view missed opportunities.
“The simple truth is that sometimes you hook a big fish and you lose it, but you can laugh about it and move on. Sometimes in life an opportunity will get away from you, but it’s not the end of the world,” said Bentele.
Fishing is also one way Bentele learns more about himself and about who God is. It works as an escape from the mundane and the stress, and it helps him better connect with the environment and with his faith.
“When you go to a beautiful place like that, your mind stops racing and you learn to see the whole world clearer,” Bentele said.
Where to watch ‘Blood Knot,’ possible sequel in the works
Honer finished editing the film at the end of April, after nearly eight months of working on it off and on. He then submitted it on Amazon Prime, where people can buy or rent it, as well as a handful of film festivals.
Honer also said the film will premiere in a movie theater in his hometown, and he and Bentele are looking to show it in Sioux Falls.
“The main goal is to have as many viewers as possible to show them what a cool relationship Aaron and Nick have, and to show them what fly fishing is really like,” Honer said.
He said he would love to do a sequel in the future and that he and Bentele have already talked about possible new locations.
“This was a fun project to make, and I really hope people enjoy it.”