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About the Idaho Fly Company

Hello Everyone,

I want to tell you our story, here it is.

I started Idaho Fly Company in 2008. I was an airline pilot for Horizon Air living in Boise, Idaho at the time commuting back and forth to Portland Oregon where I flew a CRJ-700 for Horizon air. During that year several things happened to me that changed my life forever. I had been working for Horizon Air for less than a year when my wife Rachael became pregnant with twins.

Twins: Yes I have a wonderful family of my wife Rachael, Twins: Caitlin and Sean and the last little guy Liam who is spunky and a vibrant little boy. Idaho Fly Company hadn’t been a thought at that point when I was working at Horizon Air. But I always knew I wanted to start a company. Then in 2008 my twins were born super early, 26 weeks 4 days early and my life changed forever.

After my twins were born in September, I asked to take a leave of absence to help my family during our stay in the hospital, a stay that lasted 82 days. This was an amazing time, and being fortunate to work for Horizon Air where they focus more on family than the average airline, it was not a big deal to take the leave. As we all know now, 2008 began ok but drastically took a nose dive by the end of the year. Watching the stock market plummet and the airline industry go through a wildly excessive recession again post 2001. I received the bad news from my Chief Pilot Lamar Haugarrd that they would be furloughing pilots, (this is another name for laying off, but in the airline industry we can be recalled back at our current seniority number and pay rate that we were furloughed at) and that I would be furloughed during December 2008. “Merry Christmas”; I said as I hung up the phone.

My wife: Wow what a wonderful amazing woman she is. She just had premature twins and I was just furloughed from my job and we had no income! I had applied for unemployment but there at the time was a 30 day waiting period. So my wife, not fully healed from the pregnancy was forced back to work while the babies were still in the hospital so we could survive. This was not easy for Rachael and I, as we knew this would be a very tough time in our family.

Birth of IFC: So here I am finally at home with the babies. We had the wonderful help of Rachael’s Mom Kathy to help us as my father had passed away that year as well and my mother was gone also. Kathy, the amazing person she is, helped us for three months after they came home while we worked to get these babies healthy. I got the night shift. From 10 or so to 6 in the morning when Kathy would rise to take the torch and take care of the babies. This went on for three or so months and during that time I had chosen to start learning how to be a web developer. This choice was not easy as I was a trained commercial airline pilot who didn’t know a thing about web development. Spurred on by my brother Montana Harkin that if so inclined to pursue this carrier, to read the books he suggested. Given he currently lived in the Washington DC area and worked for a very high level contractor for the Government building websites like and the such, I felt he knew what he was talking about. So I read, and read…

My brother said to ask anyone if they had an old computer they were planning on throwing out. Fortunately, Kathy and Owen, my in laws had and old Dell that they gave me. Montana said we were going to build a server and to purchase some hardware that would go into the computer. His goal was to have me do this in the hopes that a local web developer would see the accomplishments of the web site and bring me on board. So he had me start developing the web site. He had me working with CSS, PHP, HTML and following a book about the CMS (Content Management System) Drupal. I started building a custom powerful website built on a very advanced CMS. All this in the hopes that someone would hire me and I could provide for our family. I knew how to fly fish and so I built the website using the information I knew about. Growing up in Kalispell Montana, it’s almost a requirement and rite of passage to learn how to fly fish if you’re a boy. So this was a natural fit for me.

The big reveal; Then came the day my brother saw the site. “Holy shit! You built this!” he said, and he proceeded to speculate the possibility of going live with the site. I hemmed and hawed at the notion that the website wasn’t complete and that no one would buy from me. He completely disagreed; he said one thing that has stuck with me for all these years. “What do you have to lose? If no one buys a single product, what are you out? Nothing! But what if someone does buy some products? Then you’re in business It’s a Win Win proposition” Montana said. He then, behind my back purchased domain name while I was on the phone. “No more excuses” He said. “We will be going live in 30 days and I will help you fix all the little problems with the site.” And so 30 days later the website went live. No orders came in for weeks; paranoid I was. I asked my brother and sisters to place orders on the website to make sure it was all working which they obliged. There was very little information at the time about how to build an online website and how to photograph and edit photos. It came down to experimentation. How do you make a fly hover in mid air while you photograph it I asked myself? You become a magician!

My first “real” order; I jumped for joy, I had set up my server to send me a text message when an order would come in. This was before I had the system set up to actually email me a duplicate order to my email. I ran around like a fox in a hen house! Finally after almost 8 months of continual hard work on the website, I had made some money…not much money, but MONEY! $4.97 to be exact!

I called my customer and thanked him for the order. He was amazed by the phone call over a $10 order, which made me realize, hey there is something here about this “calling thing” no other online companies do this. I asked him if he would share his experience with his friends and refer them over to us. He said he would love to do that and to top it off he would share it with his fly fishing group at their monthly meeting. Wow, I said as we parted ways and I fulfilled his order.

How it grew; “Word of mouth”, I say, which is true. I started IFC with $500. That was seriously all I had to get the company going. Remember, I was furloughed from the Airlines. I wasn’t about to take money from the family that my hard working wife worked so hard to provide us. So I purchased materials from the local fly shops here and started tying flies. Every dollar went back into the company. I proceeded to call every customer and talk to them about their order, thanking them, asking for referrals and on and on it grew. As a few orders started trickling in I saved up some money and decided to start calling on the quality manufactures that I grew up using asking them if I could sell their products online. “NO, you must have a brick and mortar store front to sell our products”, time and time I would receive this response from the manufactures.

Cortland Line Company; The late Tom Harmon, my first encounter of someone the industry truly resembles was Tom Harmon. Tom was a mentor for me and my business. I met Tom one day while calling manufactures about selling their products.

 “Hello Tom, I’m John Harkin with Idaho Fly Company. Can I chat with you for bit about selling Cortland?” I said. “Chat, Hell No, I don’t chat, I talk business” Tom said. “Ok Tom, what will it take for me to sell Cortland on my site.” I said. “Money”, Tom said. And so our relationship started.

He was known for being able to tie the George Grant fly. A little known fly but those who know of it understand its importance in fly fishing. “Hey Tom, you tie the Grant, right?” I said. “Yes, I do” Tom said. “Hey, we should meet sometime and I can show you how to tie the Pott’s fly” I said. “No shit, you tie the Pott’s, not many people know that fly. Yes, lets get together over some beers and we’ll trade some flies.” Tom said.

Tom and I grew to be great friends, he was a mentor to my business and a supporter as well. He knew how troublesome the industry was, given he was a former fly shop owner himself. So he would help with questions I had about the industry and ways to go about dealing with the distributors and how to grow my business the “Right” way. A mentor and friend that we lost in 2012. Someone who enriched my life more than he will ever know.

Idaho Fly Company Now; IFC has grown into a company that sells it flies to Cabela’s and several local shops in the Boise, Idaho area. We sell and ship domestic and internationally. We are cash flow positive company and built the company to be that way for the future to come. Very little overhead and costs associated with running the business. We excel in customer service above and beyond our competitors and strive to innovate faster than they do.

Future of IFC; We are currently working on building a new more robust website that is scalable and responsive to many different applications such as smart phones, tablets etc. We are working to bring new innovative products that the industry is selling. Products such as Tacky Fly Boxes, And Air-Lock indicators.


Please help support us by sharing our company with your friends. Letting them know how your experience was with us. Trusting in providing you with the best customer service and fly fishing products available. 

Tight Lines,

John Harkin