The New Solitude Fly Reel....the "Guides" Reel

A winter buck steelhead and the new Solitude fly reel by Edco

In March 1994 steelheader Craig Harris of Michigan designed a steelhead fly reel that has become a standard for guides all over the world. This reel, without a doubt, is the most reliable and affordable steelhead/salmon reel on the market. To boot, cosmetically it is a great looking reel (John Nagy had to put it on the back cover of his new 4th edition of Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead!)

Here are some of the criteria Craig used in designing this reel:

1. The drag must function properly and the reel cannot lock up or free-spool when the air temperature is below 32 degrees F. and when the water temperature is near freezing.
2. The finish on the reel must protect it from the rigors of steelhead and salmon fishing; exposure to stones, sand, boat gunnels, water loaded with ice and sediment, pick-up truck beds, etc.
3. The spools need to be easy to change.
4. The reel needed to be lightweight to reduce casting fatigue.
5. It had to be low maintenance.
6. The reel should be able to be operated with gloves on - oversize knobs.
7. There should be no shapes or objects on the reel that could catch the line or tippet.
8. And, most importantly, the drag must have a zero start-up inertia to let the drag engage instantly and apply constant pressure. A drag that intermittently sticks/slips means lost fish.

John Nagy uses the Harris Solitude Large Arbor V (8.5 oz.) with his custom 10 1/2 foot steelhead "noodle" fly rod. It has the right amount of weight to balance this long fly rod. The Harris Solitude III and Solitude IV are ideal for shorter/production steelhead fly rods.

In 2005, the Harris fly reel production facilities were sold to Edco (www.solitudereels.com) and moved from Michigan to Mount Vernon, Washington.

Edco will continue the “guides reel” tradition laid down by the Harris Reel Company by offering and improved version of the out of production Harris Reel (considered by many to be the best steelhead reel ever made) called the Solitude.

The Solitude drag system is silky smooth with multiple settings on the light end to protect lighter tippets, has zero start-up inertia, delivers even and consistent pressure during the fight and performs extremely well during freezing conditions due to its sealed design.

The new Solitude design has a reversible drag created to facilitate right and left hand reel conversions. Also, manufacturing tolerances have been tightened to improve fit between the spool and housing. Presently, the moderately priced Solitude reels come in four models (standard spool sizes) with two large arbor designs and a spey size reel due out shortly.

If interested in ordering a Solitude fly reel (and/or John Nagy Noodle Fly Rod) please contact John Nagy at steelheadguide@hotmail.com or (412) 531-5819. Please visit www.solitudereels.com for more information on this reel.


Trip Preparation is the Key for Success on the "Steelhead Alley" Tributary Streams by John Nagy

A well equipped Tony Dibeneddeto, Jr. on a steelhead alley steelhead tributary

The famous “steelhead alley” region of southern Lake Erie encompasses a group of steelhead tributary streams and rivers that stretch from New York, through Pennsylvania and into Ohio.
The potential to “hook-up” with steelhead on these unique tributaries is excellent, but for consistent success in steelhead alley, steelheaders need to do a good amount of trip preparation and planning.

This includes fly tackle considerations, fly selection, daily monitoring of weather reports and run-off conditions and having the right equipment (waders, clothing, accessories) to deal with varied weather and tributary water conditions.

Fly Tackle

Selecting the proper fly tackle would be at the top of the list for preparing a trip to steelhead alley. For dead-drift presentations, which are effective most of the time in the normally cold flows of the Lake Erie tributaries, longer fly rods in the 9-11 foot range, in medium to medium-fast actions and 6 to 7 line weights are very popular.

These rods are ideal for reaching out in the classic “high-stick” nymphing rod position with long leaders (up to 14 feet which minimizes floating fly line contact with the water) to achieve drag-free drifts along the stream bottom. The length and more moderate action of these fly rods also help to play larger steelhead on the lighter tippets which are often used when dead-drifting small egg patterns and bead-head nymphs to fussy, drag-conscious steelhead.

For swinging flies, stiffer/faster, single-handed rods, 9 to 10 foot long in 6 to 8 line weights are more appropriate for casting, shooting and mending both floating fly lines and various sinking systems.

Down-sized, double-handed rods (also known as “switch rods”) give the steelheader the ability to do standard single-handed casts or spey type casts (single-hand double haul, two-handed overhead and two-handed anchor point spey casts) for more distance, less casting fatigue and avoiding rear obstacles. High-stick nymphing and swing presentations are also easily done with switch rods as well. Switch rods typically come in 10 ½ to 11½ foot lengths and 5 to 8 line weights.

Typical sinking systems for swinging include a weight-forward floating fly line, “loop-to-loop” connected to either a custom made mini sink tip made from sinking shooting head material, a sinking leader or a longer interchangeable sink tip head. The loop-to-loop connection allows for various lengths and sink rates of sinking materials to be used depending on the flow and depth of the water as well as the size of the tributary.

For swinging flies the leader varies from 2 to 8 feet with the shorter lengths ideal to keep flies down near the stream bottom as tributary flows cool later in the fall. Tippets as heavy as 12 lb. test can be used since drag-free drifts are not a concern and steelhead normally will not see the tippet as the fly “swims” on the swing.

There are a super abundance of fly reels on the market but first pick a reel that balances the weight of the fly rod, including the fly line strung through the guides. This is an important consideration (especially when using a longer fly rod) since fly reels these days are being manufactured more and more lighter for the same line weights and capacities. You don’t want to cast a fly rod that is tip heavy all day due to too light of a fly reel. This can lead to both bad casting and casting fatigue.

The drag of the fly reel is very important for steelhead fishing. Look for a zero or slow start-up inertia (initial drag engagement) to protect tippets from sudden steelhead surges or runs, a good range of light end adjustment settings for tippet protection also and a drag that is sealed from grit and dirt as well from water which can freeze and lock drags up during winter steelheading. Large arbor reel designs increase line pickup speed dramatically and come in handy when a steelie is running right towards you after you hook him!

Fly Selection

A successful steelhead alley trip always starts at your fly tying vice or the fly bins of your local fly shop. For egg patterns the specific pattern is not as important as is varying the size, color and material density for the water conditions at hand. This means carrying a selection of eggs in sizes #6-#16, in bright neon colors with added flash from Flashabou or Estaz (for stained flows) and pastel/muted colors (for clearer flows). Densely tied egg patterns are great for murky water and sparsely tied eggs that have a translucent effect are best for clear water.

An assortment of bead-head nymphs in sizes #10-#16 (some with flash or rubber legs added) work great in tandem with an egg pattern especially when kept close together (less than 6 inches). If the steelhead does not take the egg pattern, which acts as an attractor in stained water, he will often take the bead-head nymph which is nearby.

For swinging flies, choose wooly bugger, streamer, soft hackle, spey and tube patterns that incorporate materials like marabou, rabbit fur strip, artic fox tail, T’s fur, schlappen, guinea and grouse feathers and soft, long fibered synthetic materials like polar fiber. These materials all impart irresistible movement to the fly as it is swung down-and-across in the current.

White or lightly colored flies work best on sunny days due to their ability to reflect light. Large, darker patterns are more easily spotted by a steelhead on overcast days and in stained water due to their large profile.

Pressured water (especially if it is low and clear) often requires multiple fly pattern changes to get hook-ups. Also, unique patterns (those off the wall, one-of-a-kind concoctions!) often get results in this type of water since the steelies have never seen them before.

Monitoring Weather and Run-off Conditions

Another necessary element in trip preparation for steelhead alley would be monitoring weather reports and tributary run-off conditions in order to predict “prime” conditions (to be defined shortly) for a specific tributary or tributaries. Prime conditions are very important since the normal base flow of most Lake Erie tributaries is low and clear due to poor ground water flow. This obviously makes for extremely tough fishing.

Lake Erie tributaries require run-off from rain and/or snow-melt to get them up to fishable levels. These increased flows (you want to be there after peak run-off as the tributaries are dropping) allow for a number of things including: more effective execution of fly presentation techniques, increase steelhead holding and resting lies, initiation of fresh runs of steelhead in from the lake, push steelhead further up the tributaries toward spawning gravel and energize steelhead that have already been in the tributaries and have been stressed from low, clear water conditions and fishing pressure.

Most importantly, prime fishing conditions mean ideal water flow and clarity which makes for much more cooperative fly takers (especially for fresh run steelhead). For most Lake Erie steelheader’s prime water conditions are signaled by fishable and wadable tributary flows that have a characteristic olive green-tint coloration. This coloration allows steelhead some visibility in the water but at the same time allows the steelhead to feel secure and thereby maintain his sense of curiosity and experimentation to take flies.

The run-off rates of the steelhead alley tributaries vary from tributary to tributary due to differences in watershed sizes. Tributary run-off rate is the time it takes in hours, days and weeks for a tributary to run-off to prime conditions following a rain fall or snow-melt episode (see Steelhead Guide book by John Nagy for tributary run-off rate tables which are based on an “average” rain fall or snow-melt episode of an inch of rain or equivalent snow/ice melt occurring in a 24 hour period).

If you know the run-off rates of the tributaries and the ongoing and forecasted weather in relation to expected rain fall and/or snow-melt, you can predict when prime conditions will occur for tributary or tributaries over a several day period. This will enable you to target the “right” tributary or tributaries for the specific day(s) your fishing and should markedly increase your hook-up percentage.

Incoming weather systems to the Lake Erie region can be closely monitored by watching weekly weather reports and national/regional radar displays on the weather channel and internet weather sites. Precipitation from ongoing rain/snow events can be more precisely followed through local weather radar displays as well as local 24 hour rain fall precipitation amounts which are monitored by the National Weather Service and can be found at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ and also on local weather reports.

A limited number of Lake Erie tributaries have operating USGS river gages on them that measure real-time water flow in discharge (cubic feet per second) and stage (feet). This data is displayed 24/7 on the internet at http://water.usgs.gov/realtime.html, http://steelheadsite.com and also http://www.fishusa.com/fisherie/ (the later 2 sites also provide fishing reports). Local tackle shops and local steelhead fisherman are also good sources for current water flow information (in terms of water levels and clarity) for tributaries in their area.

Waders, Clothing and Accessories

Steelheaders fishing the steelhead alley tributaries will encounter a myriad of weather and run-off conditions through the fall, winter and spring periods of a steelhead season.
To deal with the weather and tributary related conditions the well equipped steelheader should have the following items:

-waist length, breathable/waterproof, wading jacket.
-waist length, wind-resistant, fleece jacket (worn under wading jacket).
-wool or fleece shirt.
-Capeline underwear (medium and heavy types).
-fleece or wool fingerless gloves, ball cap (visor helps block sun), knit cap.
-breathable chest waders with felt or rubber bottom/studded wading boots (breathable or neoprene waders with boot foot designs keep feet warmer in winter ice water flows).
-disposable hand warmer packets or compact Zippo hand warmer.
-water hydration bladder, small flashlight, sun tan lotion, energy bars and a mini first aid kit.

Some important fly fishing related equipment accessories that steelheaders should carry include:

-collapsible steelhead-size landing net with vest net release or “Landing Hand” mesh mitten for hand gripping/tailing fish.
-stream thermometer.
- weighing scale (some nets have scales built into their handles).
-waterproof fly boxes.
-dropper fly rig box for carrying pre-tied tandem fly rigs.
-nippers, forceps, fresh tippet material, spare leaders and various sink tips (leader wallets are ideal for organizing these).
-split shot (including soft shot variety with smaller sizes).
-floating indicators in various sizes and colors.
-polarized sunglasses for spotting fish and reading water surface current breaks.
-compact/water resistant camera with waterproof carrying case.
-a large capacity vest with a shoulder suspension system to carry all this stuff!

More detailed information on preparing and planning for a steelhead alley fly fishing trip can be found in John Nagy’s book “Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead”.


John Nagy Custom Made "Noodle" Fly Rod

John Nagy's "noodle" fly rod tames another steelhead!

John Nagy offers a custom made 10 1/2 foot "noodle" fly rod (2 piece/6 weight). This rod is featured in John Nagy's book Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead and is ideal for "high- stick" nymphing with long leaders, light tippets and small flies to achieve critical drag-free drifts on or near the stream bottom. No brand name manufactured fly rod today can match the features of this fly rod!

John Nagy uses this rod exclusively on his Lake Erie tributary steelhead guide trips. It is the ultimate tool for dead-drifting steelhead fly patterns (with or without an indicator) such as egg flies, bead-head nymphs, soft hackles and wooly buggers. Many of his guide trip customers, after fishing this incredible fly rod all day, end up ordering one!

It can easily play a big steelhead on lighter tippets (steelhead over 15 pounds have been played and landed on it), has tremendous fly line and leader control due to it's great length and casts split-shot, weighted flies, indicators, etc. very smoothly due to it's soft action.

The soft action also allows for wide casting loops (versus faster fly rod blanks which cast tighter loops) resulting in less tangles of tandem fly and indicator rigging. The added length allows for pressure to be added at largely different angles when playing a steelhead. This keeps a steelhead off balance and reduces total playing and landing time.

On Stream Reviews of John Nagy's
Noodle Fly Rod:

"The design of John Nagy's noodle fly rod is well thought out with great workmanship. The action of this custom fly rod provides an unparallel ability to protect the lightest of tippets and at the same time have enough back bone for fly casting. The 5 inch fighting butt also adds increased leverage in playing those chrome sticks of dynamite. I am so pleased with this fly rod that I have packed away my high-end production rod (at twice the cost) in favor of the noodle fly rod!"
Tony DiBenedetto, Jr. of Youngstown, Ohio

"It is so easy to cast even with weighted flies, split-shot and a float if needed. I have very little trouble casting this rod even in wind gusts up to 35 mph. This rod roll casts with very little effort. Its 10 1/2 foot length makes it so nice to make on the water mends with ease. The best thing about this rod is its soft action and your percentage of busted off fish with lighter tippets will really drop. My biggest steelhead taken on this rod was 15 lbs. on 5X tippet. Anyone serious about tributary fishing for Lake Erie steelhead should have this rod in his or her arsenal."
Joe Ciavaglia of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

"I was very impressed with every aspect of John Nagy's noodle fly rod. I was able to get a drag-free drift with little effort, feel every little bump on the drift and could easy tell if I was in the strike zone. Also I was able to roll cast with little effort and the fish fighting abilities of the rod were outstanding. For you guys fishing with production rods and are serious about Lake Erie steelhead fishing you have to get one on John Nagy's custom steelhead rods!"
William Cober

"The soft action of John Nagy's noodle fly rod enabled me to down-size my tippets and increase my hookups and land many larger steelhead without break-offs."
Walt Schaffer of Willoughby Hills, Ohio

"John Nagy's noodle fly rod is ideal for dead-drifting flies on light tippets in the cold winter flows of the Lake Erie tributaries. Its 10 1/2 foot length allows me to reach out over tricky currents, precisely present my flies and achieve long, drag-free presentations. The capability to interchange fighting butts is also a nice feature."
Joe Morgan of Hamburg, New York
"Forgiving, rewarding, fun to use are just a few words to describe the custom built John Nagy noodle fly rod. The length allows me to keep the line off the water while high-sticking favorite steelhead runs. The rod's action is great when using finer tippets resulting in minimal breakage. Landing big steelies is a breeze. It also looks great!"
Dan Houk of Steubenville, Ohio

"I found John Nagy's noodle fly rod to be everything I had hoped for in a steelhead rod. It's high-stick nymphing, mending and fighting abilities were awesome. I highly recommend this fly rod for the chrome chaser!"
John Kikel of Finleyville, Pennsylvania

"John Nagy's custom made "Noodle Fly Rod" was the ticket for chromer steelhead and fresh run salmon last October on the Salmon River in Altmar. I was able to control huge fish on a light tippet which made for some great fly fishing. It's the perfect tool for bottom bouncing and indicator techniques and is very forgiving during that first insane run the fish normally make!"
Jeff Tucker of Gorham, Maine

Custom made "noodle" fly rod by John Nagy

The rod is custom made from a 10 1/2 foot St. Croix, Wild River Salmon & Steelhead noodle rod blank (black satin finish, SC II mid-modulus graphite). It has ultra-light power with a slow action, is 2-6 lb. monofilament line rated but can handle tippets up to 9 lb. when needed.

The fly rod is assembled with quality Pac Bay components and has 3 stripper guides (single foot with black chrome frames and Hialoy rings), over-size snake guides and an over-size tip-top to prevent ice freeze-up (all with stainless steel/industrial hard chrome plating), hook keeper and a 2 inch removable fighting butt. An optional 5 inch fighting butt (non-detachable) is available for more added leverage when high-stick nymphing and playing large steelhead. The 5 inch fighting butt option is highly recommended.

Over-size snake guides (stainless/chrome plated), single foot stripping guide (Hialoy ring/black chrome frame) and epoxy finish guide wrap (silver flaking added) with metalic silver accent tipping.

Rod comes with your choice of western, full wells or reverse half wells super fine grade cork grips (front tapered reverse half wells is ideal for feel/sensitivity when high-stick nymphing), your choice of guide wrap and tipping color, heavy duty pvc rod tube and your name or initials on the rod. Optional hand made/flannel cloth rod bag is also available.
Reel seat is heavy duty/all aluminum with double locking rings and a machined fixed hood (which is ideal for heavier weight reels). Front lock nut has imbedded rubber O-ring for secure locking. It is available in all titanium or black anodized black satin finish. All locking nuts are heavy duty reverse knurled nuts to prevent scratching rods during transport or storing.

Note: To properly "lock" reel seat locking nuts into place (to prevent reel slippage on reel seat) perform the following procedure. 1.) Snug up first locking nut and hold with left hand (if right handed). 2.) Screw (with right hand) the lower locking nut to upper locking nut so that it just touches. 3.) Hold first locking nut stationary and then tighten lower locking nut (upward) to "lock" rings. 

Guide wraps (which are epoxy finished) can also be accented with tipping in standard or metallic colors at no charge. Accent tipping is added at stripper guides, female ferrule, butt wrap near hook keeper and trim wrap where name is located. Epoxy finish for guide wraps can have very fine gold, silver, blue, green or red flaking added for a subtle/unique effect at no charge.


Reverse half wells grip, black satin anodized hood and nut fittings, rosewood colored/Dynawood reel seat (not available now), 5 inch and 2 inch fighting butts.

Hash marks (subtle 1/16 inch diameter painted dots in red, green, blue, yellow or black) can be placed at 18, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 inches (from the butt of the rod) for measuring steelhead. A hash mark (yellow) can also be placed 12 inches down from the tip top for measuring water clarity with the rod tip. Ferrule line-up dots (yellow) can also be placed on the blank.

Rule of thumb: less than 12 inches of water visibility is tough fishing conditions, more than 12 inches is ideal.
This slow action fly rod casts a 6 weight floating fly line like the Wulff Triangle Taper (which is ideal for high-stick nymphing presentations) very well. Incorporating a single fly line "haul" on your forward cast will increase your line speed on this rod allowing you to "turn over" split-shot, weighted flies and indicators more easily, cast into the wind and also relieve casting fatigue since you are using your free arm (non-casting arm) to help cast the fly line.

It sells for $440 shipped (including insurance) to your door in less than 2 weeks after receiving payment. 7% PA state sales tax is applicable for PA residents.

For a 65 inch by 2 inch diameter cordura rod tube add $31.50. For a 65 inch by 2 inch diameter aluminum rod tube add $35. Also for a 5 inch fighting butt (non-detachable) add an additional $7.50. Hash marks/ferrule dots add an aditional $5.00. Cloth rod bag is an additional $10.85. 

(Note: If you do not choose an cordura or aluminum tube, rod will ship in standard pvc tube with cap that can also serve as a rod tube.)

Please contact John Nagy at steelheadguide@hotmail.com or (412) 531-5819 for more details on his custom "noodle" fly rod.

See book ordering page for information on making payments by check or Paypal

John Nagy now offers the newly designed Solitude fly reel to match up with his noodle fly rod. Please go to the Solitude reel page on the right menu bar (under Steelhead Equipment and Flies) for more information on this great steelhead reel.

John Nagy Custom Lake Erie Steelhead Flies

Hen steelhead and a good selection of "steelhead alley" egg patterns and nymphs

John Nagy offers an assortment of 1 dozen "hot" Lake Erie steelhead egg patterns and bead head nymphs for $24.95 + $4 s/h + $2.03 Pa. state sales tax (7%) if applicable.

John Nagy also offers custom fly orders of Lake Erie egg patterns, nymphs, wooly buggers and streamers for $2.50/fly + $4.00 s/h + Pa. state sales tax (7%) if applicable. See book ordering page for more information on making payments by check or Paypal.

Please contact John Nagy at steelheadguide@hotmail.com or (412) 531-5819 for more details on his custom steelhead flies including custom fly orders and his signature steelhead tube flies.

Steelheader's Tips

The following is a selection of Steelheader's Tips taken from John Nagy's book: Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead.

-When using a floating indicator it is often necessary to "fine tune" the drift of the fly depending on the water conditions (flow, clarity, depth and temperature). This is accomplished by adjusting the amount of split-shot used, split-shot to fly distance, floating indicator to fly distance, tippet size and floating indicator size. These slight changes can keep your fly drifting naturally (at or just above the stream bottom) resulting in more steelhead hook-ups.

-Mid-day is the best time to fish for lethargic winter steelhead because the water temperatures are usually the warmest at this time.

-When dead-drifting flies, use your fly rod's length to your advantage by lifting as much line and leader as possible off the water. Mend, reach out and follow the drift with the tip of your fly rod.

-When you locate a good concentration of steelhead, your better off not leaving it to find "better" water. Usually, you will never find it that day.

-Reading the surface water (by looking for changes in the water surface texture) will help you locate subsurface current breaks and potential steelhead holding areas in stained tributary flows.

-A much heavier tippet can be used when swinging a fly since the steelhead will normally only see the fly on the downstream swing.

More Steelheader's Tips can be found in John Nagy’s book “Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead”.

Traditional Steelhead Guide Trips

Rich Schmidbauer with spring hen steelhead caught on a traditional swing presentation with a Blue and White Temple Dog tube fly.
John Nagy Photo/ Guide Trip.
> >>>>>>>>
Wanted: Traditional Steelhead Fly Fisherman
Reward: Hard Hitting Steelhead Hell-bent on taking your Fly (and Fly rod) back to Lake Erie!

Steelhead guide John Nagy is looking for traditional steelhead fly fisherman who are interested in swinging flies like streamers, wooly buggers, sculpins, spey and tube flies in the age-old "down-and-across manner" using either single or double-handed fly rods. Put away your indicators for a day and learn how to:

-rig sinking systems and tube flies
-read water for swinging flies
-wade and position yourself for the swing presentation
-execute effective swinging presentations for steelhead

Also learn about "Temple Dog" style Scandinavian tube patterns (tied with Yuri Shumakov, Mikael Frodin and Eumer tube body systems) which are some of the hottest steelhead flies going on the Great Lakes right now. Experienced traditional fly fisherman who have experience at swinging flies in the Atlantic provinces for salmon and British Columbia for steelhead (but haven't tried it on the Lake Erie tributaries) are also welcome.

Swinging flies is a whole new approach for the Great Lakes steelheader who has "cut his teeth" on dead-drift presentations and is looking to expand his horizon's and experience a different steelhead presentation. This traditional technique is best done on bigger water that has long pools and wide tail-outs to active steelhead in water temperatures above 40-45 degrees F.

Typically this means the fall, late winter/early spring time or during mild winter periods.
It allows him to see the river in a larger view both downstream and bank-to-bank as he fishes. He becomes more in tuned with the larger flow of the river. The casts and mends of his fly line become intimately intertwined with long runs, riffles and pool tail-outs as he methodically swings his fly through likely steelhead lies.
Steve Anderson swinging flies on a big Lake Erie tributary. Note "belly" formed in the fly line on the downstream swing presentation. John Nagy Photo/Guide trip.
This slower, more patient approach often rudely becomes interrupted with the jarring/slamming take of an aggressive steelhead (a "player") which is hell-bent on taking your fly (and fly rod) back to Lake Erie!

Roderick Haig-Brown summed it up best when describing the traditional steelhead fly fishing approach:

"But the steelhead, with the brightness of the sea still on him, is livest of all the river's life. When you have made your cast for him, you are no longer a careless observer. As you mend the cast and work your fly well down to him through the cold water, your whole mind is with it, picturing its drift, guiding its swing, holding it where you will know he will be. And when the shock of his take jars through to your forearms and you lift the rod to its bend, you know that in a moment the strength of his leaping body will shatter the water to brillance, however dark the day."
Roderick Haig-Brown, A River Never Sleeps, 1946
For available dates and further information contact John Nagy at (412) 531-5819 or steelheadguide@hotmail.com

Instructional Steelhead Guide Trips

Aaron Perkins with a winter steelhead caught on a dead-drift presentation.
John Nagy Photo/ Guide Trip.

John Nagy offers instructional steelhead guide trips on the Lake Erie tributary streams. Trips are run from September through May in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

John Nagy's trips are truly instructional. He teaches his customers every aspect of Lake Erie tributary steelheading with a fly rod (well, as much as can be covered in a one day outing!). They often reflect the large amount of information presented in his Steelhead Guide Book on fly fishing the Lake Erie tributaries.

Some of the concepts taught by John Nagy on his guide trips include:

-Picking the right tributary stream based on current weather and run-off conditions.
-Learning the access areas of a tributary (hiking versus "car-door" fishing).
-Steelhead behavior in the fall, winter and spring seasons,
-Reading water to locate steelhead in specific water types.
-Wading and proper positioning,
-"In-and-out" fly casting.
-Fly line and leader control for dead-drifting techniques.
-Effective fly fishing equipment systems.
-The "two-fly" rig set-up.
-Traditional fly "swinging" techniques.
-Fly selection based on water conditions, available light levels and water temperatures.
-Proper steelhead fighting and landing techniques.
-John Nagy's philosophy on the "total" steelhead experience.

All fly tackle and flies are supplied by John Nagy. Customers are responsible for chest waders (felt or studded bottoms are best), proper clothing, fingerless gloves, polarized sunglasses, snacks, water, lunch and camera. John Nagy encourages catch-and-release fishing during his trips and does photography during the trip with his Nikon camera equipment as well as the customers camera.

For available dates and further information contact John Nagy at (412) 531-5819 or steelheadguide@hotmail.com


Upcoming Magazine Articles I by John Nagy

(articles already published have yellow titles)
Wading Strategies for Steelhead
by John Nagy
Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (October 2010, Available for free at numerous PA, NY, MD, NJ, DE, VA and CT fly shops)
New Steelhead Equipment and Accessories
by John Nagy
Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (March 2010, Available for free at numerous PA, NY, MD, NJ, DE, VA and CT fly shops)
Swinging Flies
by John Nagy
Chasing Silver Magazine (2nd issue 2009), primarily available in Europe but can also be ordered at: www.chasingsilvermagazine.com
Brown Trout Join the Frey in Steelhead Alley
by John Nagy
Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine (September/October 2009, available on newstands everywhere)
TheTube Fly Advantage
by John Nagy
Fly Fish America Magazine (March 2010/Gear Issue, available for free at your local fly shop)

Using Water Temperatures to Locate Tributary Steelhead
by John Nagy
Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (October 2009, available for free at numerous PA, NY, MD, NJ, DE, VA and CT fly shops)

Cattaraugus Creek, NY
by John Nagy
Fly Fisherman Magazine (
December 2009 issue/available on newstands everywhere September 2009)
A proposed fish passage device installation on Cattaraugus Creek, NY (at the Springville Dam) makes the future very promising for this classic Great Lakes steelhead river. This project would futher develop the wild steelhead fishery on the river and also create new public fishing opportunites for steelhead above the dam where 34 miles of NY State Public Fishing Rights (PFR) lands already exist.
Dam modifications on Chautauqua Creek, NY Create New Steelhead Fishing Opportunities
by John Nagy
Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine (January/February 2010, available on newstands everywhere)
New Lake Erie Tributary Fishing Opportunities
by John Nagy
Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine (March/April 2009, available on newstands everywhere)

Steelhead Alley
by John Nagy
Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine (March/April 2009, available on newstands everywhere)

New Steelhead Equipment and Accessories
by John Nagy
Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (March 2009, available for free at numerous PA, NY, MD, NJ, DE, VA and CT fly shops)

Public Fishing Access Issues on the Great Lakes Tributaries
by John Nagy
Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (October 2008 Salmon-Steelhead-Saltwater issue/available for free at numerous PA, NY, MD, NJ, DE, VA and CT fly shops)

Swinging Flies for Steelhead
by John Nagy
Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (November-December Destination Issue 2008/available for free at numerous PA, NY, MD, NJ, DE, VA and CT fly shops)

Blue and White Temple Dog Tube Fly
by John Nagy
Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine (September /October 2008 issue or November/December 2008 issue, available on newstands everywhere)

Stream Watch:
New Lake Erie Public Fishing Access on Pennsylvania's Lake Erie Tributary Streams
by John Nagy
Fly Fisherman Magazine (December 2008 issue/available on newstands everywhere October 2008)

Tips for Spring Steelheading on the Great Lakes Tributaries
by John Nagy
Fly Fish America Magazine (April 2008/available for free at your local fly shop)

Great Lakes Tube Flies
The Best New Tube Flies for Steelhead from Pulaski to Michigan

by John Nagy
Fly Fisherman Magazine (February 2008 issue/available on newstands everywhere December 2007)
Steelhead guide and author John Nagy talks about the hottest tube flies for steelhead in the Great Lakes. In the article he covers the advantages of using tube flies, plastic versus metal tubes, conventional and specialty tube designs and the innovative Scandinavian "Temple Dog" style. Included are 6 tube fly patterns (3 conventional and 3 specialty tube types) with recipes and comments by the tyers. Great steelhead color photography taken by John Nagy supplements the article as well.

Guide Flies/Scrambled Eggs
by John Nagy
Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine (November/December 2007 issue, available on newstands everywhere October 2007)
The Scrambled Eggs egg pattern is a simple fly to tie and is a killer for fishing high/stained Lake Erie tributary flows for steelhead.

The Steelhead of Lake Erie
by John Nagy
Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide (October 2007 Salmon-Steelhead-Saltwater issue/available for free at numerous PA, NY, MD, NJ, DE, VA and CT fly shops in September 2007)
The steelhead of Lake Erie are truly a mixed bag with Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario contributing both hatchery based and naturally reproduced steelhead to the Lake Erie fishery. John Nagy explains gives some background on the Lake Erie steeflhead fishery and what we can expect for the future.

Grand River, OH
An ancient and rugged river that is largely untouched by man

by John Nagy
Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine (May/June 2007 issue, available on newstands everywhere April 2007)
The Grand River in Northeast Ohio is an ancient and mostly remote river that is the cornerstone tributary of the Ohio steelhead fishery. Not only difficult to access, but normally not fishable due to high/stained flows, it can pay good dividends for the patient steelheader.

2009 Spring Steelhead Report and News by John Nagy

A spring buck steelhead that took a tube fly on the swing

A surprisingly mild March has ushered in the spring steelhead season on the Lake Erie tributaries. All the tributaries have scattered steelhead in them (including wintered-over and fresh run fish, spawners and spawned-out fish) with a higher concentration in the upper areas. Look for "drop-back" steelhead (particularly in the lower areas) as more steelhead spawn-out and the spring progresses.

Lake run suckers also start showing up in the tributaries in March. To avoid catching suckers, try to concentrate on the mid-to-upper sections of the tributaries (they typically can't run that far) and also fish faster water (suckers usually prefer moderate to slow current flows).

Steelheaders should be aware that juvenille steelhead smolt plantings are typically done in the spring on the Lake Erie tributaries. Try to avoid these stocking areas on the tributaries. If you do catch a steelhead smolt, reel it in quickly and gently release it. If the fly is swallowed deep, cut the line and release fish to increase smolt survivability. These little guys represent future steelhead runs and need to be handled carefully.

Cattaraugus Creek in New York has been high and off colored this spring but the Grand River in Ohio has been fishable at times. Anticipate a good run of "Little Manistee" strain steelhead in the Ohio tributaries with the peak of the run in April (with good fishing into May).

The Lake shore temperatures on March 25, 2009 off Toledo (OH), Cleveland (OH) and Erie (PA) were 39, 37 and 38 degrees F respectively.

Ordering John Nagy's New Book the Steelheader's Journal

Please click on this link for a detailed description of John Nagy's Steelheader's Journal: Steelheader's Journal

How to order John Nagy's Steelheader's Journal

To obtain a signed copy of the Steelheader's Journal (only available as hard cover) please send $39.95 plus $5.00 shipping (Pennsylvania residents add 7% PA state sales tax or $3.15) to:

Great Lakes Publishing

606 Crysler St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15226

or pay with PayPal below:

Steelheader's Journal Cover Options


John Nagy's New Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead

John Nagy's popular book
Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead
has been updated and expanded into a new 4th edition.
John Nagy's Steelhead Guide has long been considered the bible for steelheader's "chasing" chrome on Lake Erie's tributary streams as well as very useful to steelhead fisherman in other areas of the Great Lakes.

Expanded from 257 to 320 pages (including color insert), a major addition to the new 4th edition is 119 new and innovative steelhead fly patterns (replacing all previous 3rd edition patterns) contributed by guides by guides, fly tyers and steelhead fly fisherman from all over the Lake Erie region (44 tyers total). In addition to steelhead egg patterns, nymphs, soft hackles, streamers, wooly buggers, sculpins, leeches and spey flies, 28 hot tube flies (both conventional and Scandinavian tube designs) are also included.

It also includes a new Deadly Dozen list, additional Steelheader's Tips and a humorous "Steelheader's Quiz". An exciting new and detailed chapter on tube flies for Great Lakes steelhead discussing their history, benefits, construction and use has been added as well as tube tying materials sources, updated steelhead equipment recommendations and the latest Lake Erie region fishery news.

It also includes updated guide, tackle shop, lodging and dining lists, steelhead related web sites as well as current smolt stocking lists and recent fishery data and reports. New photos have been added to Steelhead Guide including an expanded color insert section of the new steelhead fly patterns as well as steelhead photography taken in the Lake Erie region. Some of the previous 3rd edition text (carried over into the new 4th edition) has also been revised and/or clarified as well.
Both soft and hard cover editions (autographed copies) now include a custom steelhead fly tied by the author John Nagy when purchased through this website!
How to Order Book
To obtain a signed soft cover send $32.95 plus $4.00 shipping per order (PA residents add 7% PA state sales tax or $2.59) to:
Great Lakes Publishing
606 Crysler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15226
PayPal payments also accepted.
A limited number of signed hard covers are also available. These hard covers are handsomely done in soft, black Matador leather cover strock (matte finish) with silver foil stamping including a stunning steelhead color photograph. The photograph (glossy finish) is individually hand-set on the front in a deboss panel with a silver foil border.

Pricing for hard cover 4th edition is $42.95 plus $5.00 shipping per order (PA residents add 7% state sales tax of $3.36). Follow payment instructions above for soft cover.
Or pay with PayPal below:

Steelhead Guide Cover Options

Steelhead Guide eBook Purchase

John Nagy's Steelhead Guide, Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead (Updated and Expanded 4th edition) is now available in the Amazon Kindle eBook version. It is readable on a Kindle reading device and also any other device (phone, tablet, computer) by downloading a free Kindle app from Amazon.

Please click on the following link to purchase the Steelhead Guide eBook and access the free Kindle app download:

Steelhead Guide eBook


About John Nagy/Contact Information

John Nagy has guided in Alaska and fly fished extensively in the Western and Eastern United States as well as British Columbia. For the last 20 years he has guided on many of Lake Erie's tributary streams for steelhead and has written numerous articles on the unique style of fly fishing often needed to catch these elusive and sometimes finicky fish.

His writing credits include Fly Fisherman, Wild Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon, Mid-Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide, Fly Fish America, Eastern Fly Fishing and Salmon, Trout, Steelheader.

In 2008 John Nagy updated and expanded his popular book Steelhead Guide,
Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead.

The new 4th edition includes 119 new and innovative steelhead fly patterns contributed by guides, fly tyers and steelhead fisherman from all over the Lake Erie region. An exciting addition to the book is a new chapter on Great Lakes steelhead tube flies (including 28 hot steelhead tube patterns) discussing their history, benefits, construction and use.

John Nagy has recently written numerous feature magazine articles on modern tube tying systems for Great Lakes steelhead (Fly Fisherman, Fly Fish America and Eastern Fly Fishing). The articles include discussion on conventional tube flies as well as the revolutionary Scnadinavian tube fly designs.

John Nagy has also recently completed some magazine pieces geared to public access on the Lake Erie tributaries and steelhead fishery management (Fly Fisherman, Eastern Fly Fishing and Mid-Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide). The articles cover the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission's Lake Erie Improvement Access Program, Pennsylvania's Four Mile Creek, Ohio's Chagrin River and New York's Chautauqua, Cattaraugus Creeks and Oak Orchard River.

John Nagy Contact Information
Phone: (412) 531-5819
Address: John Nagy, 606 Crysler Street, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15226

John Nagy's Steelhead Journal

Steelhead Guide and Author John Nagy

Hello, welcome to the Steelhead Journal. My name is John Nagy, author of the popular book:

Steelhead Guide
Fly Fishing Techniques and Strategies for Lake Erie Steelhead

Please feel free to browse the side bar which has information on myself, the new 4th edition of Steelhead Guide, instructional Lake Erie guide trips (both nymphing style and traditional presentations), upcoming feature fly fishing magazine articles and helpful steelhead tips.

I also offer cutting edge steelhead tackle (including my unique "Noodle" fly rod design), hot steelhead flies (steelhead egg patterns, bead-head nymphs, wooly buggers and streamers) as well as my signature tube fly patterns.

Look for timely fall, winter and spring Lake Erie steelhead tributary fishing reports and pictures posted on the Steelhead Journal as well as important news items concerning the Lake Erie tributary steelhead fishery.

Please enjoy the steelhead photography on the Steelhead Journal. My photography is very important to me. My images I try to capture the essence and subtleties of the sport of steelhead fly fishing in the Great Lakes. All photographs are for your personal viewing pleasure only. Please contact me if you are interested in any of my photographs.

My passion for steelhead fly fishing over the last 20 years can be best summed up by the quote taken from Roderick Haig-Brown's 1946 classic book "A River Never Sleeps".
"But the Steelhead, with the brightness of the sea still on him, is the livest of all the river's life. When you have made your cast for him, you are no longer a careless observer. As you mend the cast and work your fly well down to him through the cold water, your whole mind is with it, picturing its drift, guiding its swing, holding it where you know he will be. And when the shock of his take jars through to your forearms and you lift the rod to its bend, you know that in a moment the strength of his leaping body will shatter the water to brillance, however dark the day."
When pursuing steelhead on the Great Lakes tributaries, please respect your fellow steelhead fisherman, the rights of the private landowner and the magnificant steelhead itself. This can only result in a better overall experience for all.