Long Drifts Equal Big Fish

A teacher shares his passion for his guided fishing business on the Kootenai River.

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Submitted by Aaron Gordon

Band teacher Aaron Gordon holds a fish he caught on the Kootenai River.

Piper Frank, Outdoors Editor

Do you like to fish and love beautiful scenery? Then book a trip on the Kootenai River with local teacher Aaron Gordon. Gordon is a band teacher at the high school during the week but is a fishing guide during the weekends and in the summer. He owns a business called Long Drift Outfitters where he rows clients down the Kootenai River. 

Gordon first established his business in 2019 and has had two successful fishing seasons. The fishing season can last from the beginning of May to the end of October, allowing for the opportunity of a change in seasons and in fishing. Gordon originally got the inspiration for his company’s name through fishing guides asking him “‘Aaron how do you catch big fish?’” and his answer was,“‘You have to have long drifts.’”

A long drift is when a fisher casts their fly rod and lets the fly drift on the water. The longer the drift the more time a fish has to bite. On the Kootenai, because the water is slow-moving, customers can have really long drifts, which allow them to catch big fish. Gordon also explains his reasoning behind his business name was that he “Wanted to play on the drift boat name, and all the Kootenai names were taken so Long Drift just stuck.”

The Kootenai is the perfect place to learn how to fly fish or pursue one’s love for the sport.”

— Piper Frank

“I started Long Drift Outfitters because it was closer to home,” Gordon said, “and with my family growing it was hard to be away,” Gordon said. He explained that fish and game is working to expand Kootenai’s fishery by “working with the Kootenai tribe to bring back Sturgeon and Burbot fish.” He views this partnership between fish and game and the local tribe as a way to further the success of his business.

His journey of being a fishing guide started 15 years ago when he came to Idaho, on the Main Salmon. From then on, Gordon found a love for fish, rivers, and wild places which led him to the stunning Kootenai River. The Kootenai River runs from Montana to Canada, Gordon specializes in fishing on a 20 mile section from the Idaho border to Bonners Ferry. 

Gordon said that his interest in starting his fishing company on the Kootenai River came from “Showing people part of Kootenai that they never see. No one knows it’s there, it’s a forgotten section.” Gordon got a permit and started his business up from the river. The success of Gordan’s company took off, as well as his love for the job.

Being the outfitter of the company comes with responsibilities such as making decisions and dealing with clients. A challenge for Gordon has been differentiating the roles of being a guide and being the owner. “There’s an interesting balance between owner and guide. Some days you’re both or one or the other.” He said, “I’m starting to really see a big difference between the two as the company is growing.”

Gordon supplies his clients with rods, flies, beverages, lunch, and the opportunity to catch large rainbow and cutthroat trout or just take in the beautiful scenery. The Kootenai is the perfect place to learn how to fly fish or pursue one’s love for the sport. Its slow-moving water provides a great habitat for fish, and fly fishers of all skill levels. Even students can join Gordon for a trip down the Kootenai River while catching big fish, with long drifts.