A Steelheaders Quarantine Reading List

In Meet the team, Steelhead Etiquette, Steelhead Files by Kyle Smith

Stuck-at-home? Here are 16 Steelhead Book Recommendations for the Quarantined Steelheader

With many of us spending more time at home and indoors than we’re used to, the team at Wild Steelheaders United thought we’d share some of our favorite reads to keep the fire for conservation and fishing alive while we’re all hunkered down.

John McMillan, Wild Steelhead Initiative Science Director 

  • Steelhead Fly Fishing on the Olympic Peninsula, Doug Rose: Not a book that tells you where to fish, but, if you are interested in the history of steelheading on the OP and want to know more about the status and plight of the fish, this is the book for you.  
  • Mountain in the Clouds, Bruce Brown: The book is an Olympic Peninsula classic. It provides both a historical and personal view of the science and conservation issues facing salmon, steelhead, and their habitat on the OP.  

Dean Finnerty, Wild Steelhead Initiative Manager  

  • A Steelheader’s Way, Lani Waller: Having spent most of my life fishing and trying to explore every accessible piece of steelhead water in Western Oregon, this book not only helped me to hone my angling skills, but gave me the opportunity to live vicariously through Waller’s travels into British Columbia and beyond. And don’t sleep on the chapter dedicated to conservation, either.  
  • Wild Steelhead – The Lure and Lore of a Pacific Northwest Icon, Sean Gallagher: I can’t say enough about this well-crafted, two-book set from one of the nicest gentlemen you’ll ever find in a steelhead camp. And that’s exactly where this book takes the reader: into steelhead camp and around the campfire, where you’ll find stories and experiences full of wisdom from the wide assortment of anglers featured within.  

Kyle Smith, Oregon Field Coordinator 

  • Holding Lies, John Larison: A thrilling mystery that weaves in names and places familiar to many Oregon steelheaders, from Whitehorse Rapids to Gravel Bin campground, Larison captures steelhead culture in a way that is both compelling and mysterious. 
  • A Sand County AlmanacAldo Leopold: Almost nothing to do with steelheading, but for any aspiring conservationist, this is an absolute must-read. Leopold speaks to the value of place and the wonder of the earth’s natural systems with a grounded, salt-of-the-earth, dirt-under-your fingernails prose that is the foundation of today’s conservation ethic.  

Jonathan Stumpf, Washington Wild Steelhead Initiative Advocate 

  • Spoon Fishing for SteelheadBill Herzog: For the spoon-curious steelheader just getting started to the metal-tossing vet, this book provides everything you need to know about tactics, tips, and tricks for catching and landing your first spoon-caught steelhead from the Metal God himself.  
  • Steelhead ShangriLaRalph Wahl: This quick-to-read narrative account takes the reader on a fantastic angling journey of one man’s growth into catching steelhead on the fly in Washington’s Skagit River basin in the early part of the 20th century. 

Eric Crawford, North Idaho Field Coordinator 

  • Indian Creek Chronicles, Pete Fromm: Based at the proverbial end of the road, in the headwaters of the Selway River, this is a story that leads the mind to dream about wilderness, and wonder about the measures mankind will go to in restoring salmon and steelhead runs, while creating a longing for a simpler time in a simpler place, the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.  
  • Striking Steelhead22 Years of Data and Lessons Learned on the Clearwater, Dan Magers: Magers dissects the Clearwater River steelhead fishery with part history lesson, details worthy of a scientist, and the humility of a dedicated angler. This book is the definitive source for steelhead fishing the Clearwater River.  

Luke Kelly, Olympic Peninsula Restoration Project Manager 

  • Native Peoples of the Olympic PeninsulaJacilee Wray: For those interested in a deep-dive into the heritage and tribal lifeways of the nine Olympic Peninsula treaty tribes, this book is a must read, with chapters on each tribe sharing their history, treaty rights, and current cultural and political issues.  
  • View of The River, Luna Leopold: This book is entertaining for anglers that want to understand river habitat and natural river processes, and through Leopold’s deep reverence for America’s rivers, he explains why water science can’t be separated from management and stewardship.  

Mark Hieronymus, Alaska Sportfish Outreach Coordinator 

  • Bright Waters, Bright FishRoderick Haig-Brown: I got this as a gift in the ‘80s, and there are a few images from it permanently burned into my brain—it certainly helped warp the mind of a young steelheader. Revisiting it as I aged, I saw it less as a “look-book” of fantastic imagery and more as Haig-Brown’s reflections of a life spent with and for fish. 

Rob Masonis, VP of Western Conservation 

  • The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout, Second Edition – Thomas Quinn, PhD: With accessible prose and measured optimism, Dr. Quinn deftly explains the complex ecology of Pacific Salmon and illuminates the path to recovery of these iconic fish in this very recently updated second edition. 

Lee Geist, Ambassador 

  • Confessions of an Urban Fish and Wildlife Officer in Washington StateGreg F. Haw: Not exactly steelhead specific, but Pacific Northwest steelhead law is highlighted in a series of short stories chronicling the author’s Washington state law enforcement career. It’s an incredible look at wildlife law enforcement, its shortcomings and its triumphs. 
  • Steelhead CountrySteve Raymond: Steelhead biology, history, and chrome-into-backing are all wrapped into a series of short stories following the author’s steelhead angling passion from his beginning. Puget Sound steelhead caught in the salt and Deschutes River line-peelers are all described in detail from cast to hand. 

Others to consider:  

  • Dry Line Steelhead and Other Subjects, Bill McMillan 
  • May the Rivers Never Sleep, John & Bill McMillan 
  • Skeena Steelhead, Bob Hooton 
  • A Passion For Steelhead, Dec Hogan 
  • Steelhead Fly Fishing, Trey Combs 
  • The Complete Steelheader, John Larison 
  • Color Guide to Steelhead Drift Fishing, Bill Herzog 
  • Spinner Fishing for Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout, Third Edition, Jed Davis 
  • A Temporary Refuge, Lee Spencer 
  • Steelhead Fly Tying Art and Design, Dec Hogan/Marty Howard 
  • The Habit of Rivers, Ted Leeson
  • Wild and Scenic Rivers, Tim Palmer
  • A River Never Sleeps, Roderick Haig-Brown