The Half-Pounder - A Steelhead Trout

Life History and Fly Fishing

Dust Cover for The Half-Pounder Book

In the book, Lee summarizes information from published and unpublished scientific fishery studies and popular literature on the early history, geography, stream flows, access, run size, run timing and distribution, age and growth, and angler catch of half-pounders from the Rogue, Klamath, Eel, Sacramento and Mad rivers. Also included is a chapter on the Sacramento River and tributaries and unique run of steelhead.

The Half-pounder – A Steelhead Trout, Life History and Fly Fishing includes chapters on half-pounder fly fishing equipment, fly presentation and methods, and the history, styles, and flies used by anglers for half-pounders. Included are 156 individual color photographs and descriptions of historical and present day half-pounder flies. A chapter on conservation and management and an extensive reference section of both scientific and popular steelhead literature is included.

Limited Edition, 500 copies, Signed and Numbered

online orders-US only

What reviewers are saying:

    “Anyone who has the desire to learn more about this strain of steelhead should spend the money to purchase the book.”

Pat Hogland, Salmon & Steelhead Journal, August/Sept 2015


    “Limited edition of 500 copies with excellent graphics and color photography, I expect that as good as it is, once it sells out, copies are going to cost a lot more.”

Larry Kenny, California Fly Fisher, October 2015

Book Reviews

In 1924, late summer streamflows in the lower Eel River were less than 25 cubic feet per second. Fishing conditions were good and the local Ferndale Enterprise newspaper reported on August 15, The annual run of salmon trout has commenced in Eel River and anglers have been enjoying good sport the past week. There are also some salmon in the river, though it is unusually early for the regular run.”

A week later, the same newspaper reported, No Half-pounders getting up river--The late rain had no appreciable effect on Eel River and the stream is still impassable for the fish attempting to get up. Above Palmer Creek it is dry and the large run of half-pounders in the river is confined to the lower stretches. Some steelhead are being taken from the upper pools but these are fish which got up some time ago before the water was so low.”

Fly pages from The Half-Pounder book
Fly pages from The Half-Pounder book
Chapter 4 pages from TheHalf-Pounder book

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California Fly Fisher

Even with the low streamflows, the large, slow moving, lower Eel River pools usually provided some fishing opportunities. During the fall of 1924, Mr. W. G. Morse, a local angler, took advantage of the fishing and caught 14 small, bright silver fish, locally known as half-pounders, from the lower Eel River near Fernbridge. The smallest was 9 inches and the largest 12 ½ inches in length. The fish were preserved by California Division of Fish and Game Warden Theodore M. Benson, and shipped to John Otterbein Snyder at Stanford University for identification. Snyder identified the fish as small steelhead and the following year wrote The Half-Pounder of the Eel River, A Steelhead Trout, published in California Fish and Game. This was the first published scientific description of a half-pounder.

In the article, Snyder wrote - “Their entry into the river and progress up stream seems to depend somewhat upon the flow of the water, which may be greatly reduced during the periods of drought. They are usually present in the lower reaches of the river in considerable numbers from the first of October until about the middle of November, when high water permits them to pass up stream. While yet fairly fresh from the ocean, bright silvery in color, some-times with a blush of pink along their sides, plump, solid, and full of energy, they are sought by many anglers, some of whom have come from long distances. Among these fishermen one occasionally hears more or less protracted discussions as to whether the fish are trout or steelheads, whether they belong to the same species as the larger steelheads which enter the river, whether they differ from the smaller stream trout, whether they differ from the steelheads of other rivers, what is a steelhead anyway?”.

Annual runs of half-pounders are unique to certain river in southern Oregon and northern California. Almost 100 years later, anglers still pursue this small steelhead although, even to this day, their relationship to runs of summer, late fall and winter adult steelhead in the same river is often misunderstood by anglers. In this book, Fisheries Scientist and steelhead angler, Dennis P. Lee, provides a unique perspective of the origin of half-pounder and steelhead names, steelhead and rainbow trout evolution and distribution, and the life history of this diminutive steelhead called a half-pounder. “The Half-pounder – A Steelhead Trout, Life History and Fly Fishing” is the first book published specifically on half-pounders and fly fishing for this unique steelhead.

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