Ben Nelson

You'll find Ben gearing up for his next outdoor expedition and laughing.

Take us back to when you were a kid. What did you want to be? 

Growing up I wanted to be a meteorologist. I thought those people were the coolest standing on the TV telling us important information. Throughout my early years I was involved in a club swim team, multiple extra curricular activities, and choir, but being a meteorologist was definitely at the top of my list. 

What was last Monday like for you? 

I typically start my day with a workout. I wake up early and either run or swim. Throughout high school I swam on the swim team, and those early mornings have stayed with me. I think that it is important to get your mind rolling and your blood flowing before work. Some of my most creative work has come to me during long runs and heart pounding swim workouts. After that I get some breakfast and brew some coffee. I usually will then write for the blog or brainstorm on some future projects or things that I want to see happen in the future. After lunch time I hop online to order a couple of things for my outdoor activities and my spring semester with the NOLS school. People tell me I live like its 100 years ago; when explorers would pack for expeditions in the wild and would not communicate with the outside world for long periods of time. 

Walk us through the days leading up to working on The Angler’s Hatch? 

I started fly fishing at 14 years of age. After my first couple of trips I had a couple of short stories written up, and thought that with my already bursting passion for the sport that I should make them more formal. The idea started with the blog, a couple of photos, and some hand tied flies that I had created. 

What keeps you busy? 

In my free time I love to ski, fish, read, volunteer, tie flies, climb, and learn. I am currently in the middle of my gap year program between high school and college, and am studying with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). I just returned in December from 80 days in Patagonia, Chile, where I sea kayaked and mountaineered, and will venture out to Wyoming in February to spend another 80 days outside sleeping in a tent, rock climbing, white water kayaking, and doing some other pretty rad stuff. 

"Eliminating distractions and surrounding yourself with productive and like-minded people has been key for me."

How do you stay focused?

Throughout my schooling and work, I have learned that being efficient and focused during your designated work time determines how great of an outcome you produce. Eliminating distractions and surrounding yourself with productive and like-minded people has been key for me. Also taking time to exercise and laugh. If you know me, I love to laugh and find almost everything funny. 

What has been the biggest challenge?

For a young guy like me who is fairly ambitious, creating new content has been the biggest challenge through the past couple of years. Whether it be a blog post, photo project, short story, or a new fly pattern. I’ve spent long days typing, sitting at the fly tying vise, and editing photos trying to find my own style. 

How did you overcome it? 

As simple as it may sound; going fishing. That may have meant driving the golf cart up to the neighborhood pond for an evening with the pan fish or spending a weekend in the Driftless with friends catching brown trout on small dry flies. You simply cannot create interesting content without real experiences. When I am on these adventures I always seem to come upon a story I wasn’t actually planning for, and that is why I keep doing this. 

You get to redo something that you did. What would that be and why?

Looking back, I would have taken more time to get my products page off the ground. Starting that too early led me to start selling a shirt that I didn’t really help design and did not tell a story or display a message I was looking for. I am so thankful for my latest projects with The Side Garage. They have done such a good job of working in person with me and collaborating to design something that means a lot me and The Angler’s Hatch. 

"When I am on these adventures I always seem to come upon a story I wasn’t actually planning for, and that is why I keep doing this."

Someone is starting their own thing. What would you say to them if they came to you for advice? 

That’s awesome! It takes a lot of courage to step outside of your comfort zone and begin your own thing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will find that others have some great insight. Also, take a couple of risks. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed. The glory of it all is that you will learn so much throughout the whole process. 

Why Des Moines? 

I grew up here in DSM, have gone to school here, and love this city. I graduated high school in the spring of 2017, and am currently using DSM as a home base in between my two gap year semesters with NOLS. After that I will head out to Bozeman, MT and attend Montana State University. 

What’s one new thing that has caught your eye?

The growing third wave coffee scene. It was introduced a bit ago by Mars Cafe that has a couple of locations spread around the city, and the new shop Horizon Line. Over the past couple of years, I have learned quite a bit about the third wave coffee industry, as well as learned a bit about brewing and roasting. I consider myself a devoted hobbyist. I think I find coffee so interesting because you are drinking coffee in your home or local shop, but exploring places from all around the world with all of the different beans and origins. That for me makes coffee so interesting. 

You grant Des Moines one wish? What’s that wish? 

I wish to see the river systems be more activated. There are a couple rivers that we drive over every day that could be used for kayaking, rafting, scenic tours of the city, and more. Spending a lot of my time outside and in the woods, I see a lot of potential in those water systems. 

"Through my time of growing up in DSM, I have seen a new side of coffee."

For someone new to DSM where do you suggest they go? 

Whenever I go to a coffee shop, restaurant, retail store, or museum, I always meet cool and interesting people. I would encourage you to get out and walk around, go into a shop that you haven’t been to yet. You never know who you will meet and connect with. 

The most underrated thing in DSM is the developing craft coffee scene. Through my time of growing up in DSM, I have seen a new side of coffee. More shops caring more about where they get their beans, the process in which they prepare, and the culture they are curating. I think that these places are becoming the spots to meet new people, be productive, and drink excellent coffee. 

What are you most proud of and why? 

Looking back on the past couple of years with The Angler’s Hatch, the proudest thing for me are the memories that I have created. The time spent on the stream with my Dad and Grandpa will never be forgotten. Those stories that I write are some of the most memorable and fun I will ever write. Creating something that people can enjoy is something that has always kept me going. My pieces of writing are things that I am most proud of.  

"The time spent on the stream with my Dad and Grandpa will never be forgotten."

It’s been six months, what do you hope to have accomplished?

I hope to have completed my NOLS semester in Wyoming, return to DSM to work a little bit, and then venture out to Bozeman, MT to begin a new chapter with a summer internship and the approaching school year. I cannot wait to be in a place I have called my second home all my life. 

One thing that matters to you most is what? 

My family. I’ve got two incredible parents who are loving and supportive, and two younger sisters who mean the world to me. It has been really cool for me to be a big brother to them. 

Photo credit: Justin Salem Meyer

Derek Jensen