Podcast: The Secret Life of Steelhead, with John McMillen


This week, my guest is noted steelhead angler and scientist John McMillen of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. John’s fascinating discussion of why steelhead do what they do (and the challenges they face) held me in absolute fascination. I am sure you’ll feel the same. Besides being a lifelong steelhead angler–he was a tester on our new Mission Series of two-handed rods)–John has spent hundreds of days snorkeling steelhead rivers, observing the fish in their native habitat, and at one time he was fishing about 345 days a year. John has worked for the US Forest Service, the Hoh Indian Tribe, the Wild Salmon Center, and recently for NOAA on the Elwha Dam removal project.  After a lifetime of studying the life history and ecology of steelhead, John remains an optimist about the future of steelhead, and it gives us hope that someone who understands them so well feels they have a chance of survival.

In the Fly Box this week, we have these questions and suggestions from listeners:

  • How to clean waders with vodka!
  • A tip on a simple tool for tying nail knots.
  • A suggestion for a quick-change rig for catching barracuda when fishing for bonefish and permit.
  • Why am I having trouble hooking brown trout on terrestrials?
  • What waders do you recommend for someone starting out?
  • What safety precautions do you take on the water?
  • When you first get to the river, how do you decidewhich nymphing technique to use?
  • What regular fly line size works on thePracticaster?
  • Is there a good way to mark large smallmouth bass, so I can see if I am catching the same ones?
  • Silver saltwater hooks don’t work well for me when I fish Clousers in salt water.  Why?
  • I have a box of old leaders that are between five and 20 years old.  Should I use them?
  • Can I fish for steelhead in Lake Ontario tributaries with a 9-foot, 8-weight rod?
  • Why do I see so many scarred fish in a particular river?
  • What other presentations should I use in high, dirty water when streamers don’t work?
John McMillen with a fine Pacific Northwest steelhead.

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