Outdoor Storytellers – Old Man River

RIGGINS, ID — If you were to mention that there’s a connection between the steel mills of Indiana and the steelhead fishing of Idaho, most would think it a bit of a stretch. But that’s just because most people have never met Kerry Brennen.

“It’s gonna be a beautiful day on the Salmon River,” Brennen proclaims as he starts rowing into the water.

Brennen is the owner of Rapid River Outfitters in Riggins, Idaho. He’s been a permanent fixture on Idaho’s Salmon River for more the past 21 years.

“On this particular section of river, I’m the old guy now,” he says, adding with a laugh, “I still got a lot of time left, hopefully.”

As he guides fisherman down the Salmon River, he’s rowing the whole time. Though he has to fight the main stems of current, back eddies and slack water in a simple drift boat, he doesn’t seem to mind.

“When I’m rowing, I’m just fishing,” Brennen says. “Workin’ the oars is like chewing gum to me. I don’t even notice I’m doing it.”

He’s found a home on the Salmon River, but he’s come a long way from the steel mills of Gary, Indiana where he grew up.

“The steel-making and the steelhead fishing,” he says, “Two different things. I like this kind of steel way better.”

It’s easy to see why when you spend a day with Brennen on the river, seeing the occasional eagle or otter while you’re fishing in prime steelhead real estate.

“We call it the boatman’s retirement plan,” Brennen says. “We row ’til we drop. So, I’m in for that and here in Riggins is the best place I can imagine doin’ it.”