The large painting of a man fly-fishing in a peaceful river immediately caught the young man’s eye.
Seth Kloberdanz, 25, grew up fishing and hunting with his father near their home in Sterling, Colorado. The family often would take trips up the Poudre Canyon outside Fort Collins, to enjoy his grandparents’ cabin and to fish along the Cache la Poudre River.
Seth was just 7 when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory illness affecting different areas of the digestive tract.
In the fall of 2015, Seth left Sterling to attend Front Range Community College in Fort Collins to pursue a degree in Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources. Living closer to the Poudre Canyon, Seth headed frequently to the canyon to fish. It was then that he also started to receive his infusions for Crohn’s disease every eight weeks at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital.
At the hospital, he first spotted the painting.
“I’d go up to the third floor, come out of the elevator, walk down the hall toward infusion, and there was this painting,” Seth recalled.
Seth considered himself a fisherman, but no one in the family fly-fished. He’d never had the opportunity to learn.
“I had always been interested, but had never taken the plunge,” he said.
The painting motivated him to give it a try.
Seth started by watching YouTube videos, absorbing every detail he could about essential fly-fishing equipment, casting and flies. He treated himself to a new fly rod for Christmas, then practiced casting in the grass at Avery Park in Fort Collins. Once he thought he was ready, he headed up into the canyon.
“I went three times before I caught my first fish. There were lots of frustrations with tangles and getting my flies caught in trees,” he said. “But then I caught a brown trout behind the red church. That was cool and sentimental because that was one of my great-grandfather’s favorite spots to fish.”
One of Seth’s favorite aspects of fly-fishing is how absorbing it is.
“Regular fishing, whether you use bait or a spinner, allows your mind to still wander,” Seth explained. “But when you fly-fish, especially in a river, you are only focused on how you are fishing. And having that be the only thing I’m thinking about is therapeutic.”
As he managed his chronic illness and worked his way through school, the painting continued to inspire Seth and bring him hope during each hospital visit.
Then, his degree program offered a class at Orca Adventure Lodge in Cordova, Alaska. He jumped at the opportunity to study natural resources at a remote lodge located on the east side of Prince William Sound and the mouth of the Copper River.
The trip was terrific and when Seth graduated in 2019, he began working for the lodge, owned by Steve and Wendy Ranney. Each June through September, Seth spends his time in Alaska as a fly-fishing guide, sharing his passion and skills for the sport with others.
“I started with fly-fishing trout here, but fly-fishing salmon in Alaska is like the Super Bowl of fishing,” he said.
Seth ice-fishes during the winter months and works as a FedEx contingency driver. Until recently, he continued to go to Poudre Valley Hospital for infusions. His last colonoscopy showed no inflammation, which means his treatment plan is working. He was able to stop infusions and move to a self-injection treatment that’s more convenient.
During his last infusion at Poudre Valley Hospital, Seth couldn’t help but wonder about the painting that had inspired his career path. The infusion center had moved to a new location within the hospital. Still, he wandered up to the third floor, took a left off the elevator and there it was, the painting of a man who seemed so peaceful as he fly-fished the river.
Seth inquired with hospital staff about the artist. Who was the person who’d made such an impact on him? He was given a phone number for hospital administration and talked with Rita Watson, executive administrator for the hospital’s chief nursing officer.
Inspired by Seth’s story, Watson shared Seth’s remarks with the hospital’s senior leaders. Knowing the picture held significant meaning to Seth, managers decided to give Seth the large framed painting by artist Bon “Bonnie” Fillpot of Loveland, Colorado.
Seth was thrilled with the unexpected gift. He hopes the painting can inspire others. He wants to someday give it to his two-year-old nephew. Until then, he hopes to take it to the lodge for people around the world to enjoy.
“I love to share my passion of fishing with friends and family,” he said. “I look forward to sharing the painting with others, telling them the story of how it has changed my life.”