John McMillan is on the podcast to give us a steelhead report and talk about our northwest steelhead runs, the ups and downs of anadromous fish cycles and why John is optimistic about the current status of steelhead.  John has a skill for clarifying important topics and breaking down complicated issues for the rest of us.

There is no question this one will go down as one of the great podcast episodes of the year and one of the first deep dives from this podcast into a few conservation topics related to steelhead and salmon.  The North Umpqua, Olympic Peninsula and Deschutes are all covered in this one and much more!

This blog post was originally published on January 21st, 2020.  On January 16th, 2021 this post was updated with more recent content and links.


Click below and listen to the Steelhead Report with John McMillan:

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Steelhead Show Notes with John McMillan

28:50 – John talks about the highest priority basins on TU’s list for recovering and protecting wild steelhead.

33:00 – We note the reason steelhead disappear in Alaska as you move north and note that John was on the Barbless podcast where he covered many similar topics as we covered today.

35:50 – The Wild Steelhead Initiative is John’s focus now for Trout Unlimited.  The goal is to identify those best last places for steelhead.

38:00 – We talk about the Big Fundamental, aka Tim Duncan and how this applies to steelhead recovery based on limiting factors.  There focus for each basin is Run size, how many total anglers fishing, total number of fish caught and how many steelhead escaping to spawn.

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54:30 – We talk about the Elwha dam removal and the potential removal of the 4 lower Snake River dams.  Here’s a time-lapsed video of the Elwha dam removal project.

56:00 – Rainforest_steel is John’s Instagram handle where he shares some great underwater pics, videos and summaries of steelhead life histories.

1:05:00 – We talk about John’s new podcast coming out soon.  I’ll add a link when it’s ready to roll.  The guys at Barbless were a big part of helping to get John fired up creating a new podcast.

1:13:30 – The Steelhead Caddis and the String Leech are Johns goto flies for Summer and Winter Steelhead respectively.

1:16:50 – May the Rivers Never Sleep is a book that John wrote with his dad, Bill McMillan.  We talk about the book A River Never Sleeps by Roderick Haig Brown.


1:18:40 –  Wild Steelhead by Sean M. Gallagher as well as Trey Combs books and Dec Hogan’s Passion for Steelhead are all of the most recommended.

1:19:50 – Dec Hogan was on the podcast in episode 20.  

1:21:00 – The Elwha movie is coming out on the summer steelhead returns.

1:22:15 – We noted the Deschutes Angler Fly Shop and the upcoming fundraising action that John has going with TU.


You can reach John at Rainforest_Steel on Instagram.


Steelhead Resources Noted in the Show

How to Tie a String Leech


Videos Noted in the Show

John Notes this Pulp Fiction Clip


The Elwha Dam Removal Project


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john mcmillan

Steelhead Report Conclusion with John McMillan

John McMillan covered all of the big issues when it comes to steelhead recovery and the current status.  Snake River dams, hatcheries and habitat issues were all covered today on the podcast.  John has a talent for breaking down the big issues for the rest of us.  Hope you enjoy this one with one of the best.  Leave a comment below if you want to hear more conservation-related episodes.



  1. Fantastic podcast. John knows his stuff, always learn something new from him. Listened to this episode while driving to Clearwater, ID to pick up a drift boat!