Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trout Update #13: Fly Fishing the Neversink River Gorge

Yesterday I drove to upstate New York (is anything not included in the NYC city limits considered upstate?) to fish the Neversink River. A little history: the Neversink was fished by Theodore Gordon, inventor of the Quill Gordon, and by Edward Hewitt, inventor of the Bivisible. Indeed, the Neversink reservoir now covers the land formerly owned by these two historic American fly fishermen.

Below the reservoir, the Neversink is a tail-water masquerading as a freestone stream: cold water releases from the dam keep the river cool year-round, while huge outcroppings of sandstone create immense pockets of deep, fast water. The Neversink Gorge, where I fished yesterday, is as steep and inaccessible a stretch of water as I've ever fished. The banks are sometimes non-existent; the gorge walls stumble down right upon the river at spots. Additionally, no trail runs directly along the river, an occurrence that helps keep fishing pressure relatively low. Despite being a New York state protected "unique area," I did not see a single other fisherman in the six hours I spent there. Think about it for a second: this is a river located less than 100 miles from New York City, a river with an unparalleled historic significance, a tail-water river with cold water in the middle of summer, a river full of wild trout, and a river with numerous wild brook trout tributaries. And I had it all to myself on a beautiful day in late August.

The fishing, however, was difficult. The Neversink had a decent flow that kept me from adequately casting. I struggled to find trout, cast, and wade. The accessibility issues caused me to fall a number of times. My feet sustained pretty nasty blisters. It wasn't the best of days.

However, I caught three wild brook trout on a spinner in a tributary - let's call it Mullet Brook for now. I also lost at least a 23-inch rainbow trout on a Muddler Minnow in the Neversink. It was easily the biggest trout of the year, maybe even the biggest non-steelhead of my life. But the hook was never really in its mouth very well...OH it kills me to think about it. Around 6ish a decent slate drake hatch started coming off the water. I switched to a dry fly and, after three trout missed the fly, including a BIG brown, I landed a 12 inch wild brown trout. I was elated. All the falls, all the blisters, and all the cuts were worth it because of that one fish: I had caught a trout in the same river as Gordon and Hewitt. Here's a video of the spot where I caught the trout:

A few minutes later I became completely soaked after a nasty fall and left.

Wildflowers: St John's Wort, turtlehead, wild mint, spotted touch-me-not, forget-me-not (photo), chickweed, white wood aster, smooth aster, birdsfoot trefoil, heal-all, purple loosestrife, blue vervain, and a few more. I didn't take as many pictures of flowers because I was concentrating on the fishing.

Overall Total: 150

River Breakdown:

Raritan River, South Branch - 22 (13 Stocked Brown, 7 Stocked Brook, 1 Wild Brook, 1 Wild Brown)
Bushkill Creek - 21 (17 Stocked Brown, 3 Stocked Rainbow, 1 Stocked Golden Rainbow)
Marshalls Creek - 20 (20 Wild Brook)
Pequest River - 17 (9 Stocked Brown, 6 Stocked Brook, 2 Stocked Rainbow)
Beaverkill River - 10 (7 Wild Brown, 2 Wild Brook, 1 Stocked Brown)
Poplar Run - 9 (7 Wild Brook, 2 Wild Brown)
Faulkner Brook - 7 (6 Wild Brook, 1 Wild Brown)
Stony Brook - 7 (7 Stocked Rainbow)
Spring Creek - 6 (3 Wild Brown, 3 Wild Rainbow)
Brodhead Creek - 4 (3 Stocked Brown, 1 Stocked Rainbow)
Paulinskill River - 4 (4 Stocked Brown)
Penns Creek - 4 (4 Wild Brown)
Rattlesnake Creek - 4 (4 Wild Brook)
Mill Creek - 3 (2 Wild Brook, 1 Wild Tiger)
Mullet Brook - 3 (3 Wild Brook)
Old Town Run - 2 (2 Wild Brown)
Stony Run - 2 (1 Stocked Brook, 1 Wild Brook)
Cherry Run - 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Lawrence Brook - 1 (1 Stocked Brook)
Musconetcong River - 1 (1 Stocked Brown)
Neversink River - 1 (1 Wild Brown)
Yellow Breeches Creek - (1 Wild Brown)

Species Breakdown:

Brown Trout - 70
Stocked - 48
Wild - 22

Brook Trout - 62
Wild - 47
Stocked - 15

Rainbow Trout - 17
Stocked - 13
Wild - 3
Golden Rainbow - 1

Tiger Trout - 1
Wild - 1
Stocked - 0

Stocked Trout - 77
Wild Trout - 73

Trout 15+ Inches: 5

Angling Breakdown:

Fly Fishing Rod - 81 (34 Stocked Brown, 18 Wild Brown, 11 Stocked Rainbow, 9 Stocked Brook, 5 Wild Brook, 3 Wild Rainbow, 1 Stocked Golden Rainbow)

Spinning Rod - 69 (42 Wild Brook, 14 Stocked Brown, 6 Stocked Brook, 4 Wild Brown, 2 Stocked Rainbow, 1 Wild Tiger)

State Breakdown:
Pennsylvania - 84
New Jersey - 52
New York - 14


phlyphish said...

Nice Writeup. You shouldn't be discouraged for falling in the Neversink. Something tells me even the most experienced wader has fell if he has visited the river enough times.

Arseni said...

I've looked over satellite maps of the neversink, and I couldn't find the place that you show in your video. Could you tell me how you got there?

Matthew Bruen said...

To get there you need to access the gorge from Route 17 near Monticello. The road is Katrina Falls Rd. If you drive to the end, you'll see a parking area. You'll see a path right by where you park. Follow it until it splits. Make sure you turn left at this fork. Follow that path until it terminates on the banks of the river. You'll bypass a bunch of good water because the path is on the ridge-line for awhile, but you'll come out right by where that video was taken.

Arseni said...

This website: has a great trail map for the area that shows all the existing trails and their names. I see it shows several trails and a few forks and I cannot quite understand on which fork you are saying to turn left. It seems that if I turn left at any for I'll end up deep in the woods, away from the river.

Matthew Bruen said...


Check this map out:

If you walk south from Katrina Falls Rd. you will come to that first split after about ten minutes (just north of the Wolf Brook Bridge on the map). This is what I meant when I said "make a left." When you do, you'll go over the Wolf Brook bridge (small tributary) and encounter another split at the Big Maple Junction marked on the map. Then, merely follow the "blue trail" (to the right) and it'll bring you to the spot in my video. It's much easier doing that than walking straight to the river from Katrina Falls Rd. and then trying to make your way south along the stream. It's very tough terrain if you try and do it that way.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fisherman but a kayaker and thought perhaps what I know about the area could help. You can get a 'dummy map' that shows some of the trails by calling the NYSDEC at 845-256-3083 or the Forest Rangers at 845-256-3026. You can get a USGS map which I like better: Since you are really concerned about the River The Hartford Quad is really all you need since that has just about all the river on it. Yankee Lake Quad show whats east of it in the Neversink Gorge.
If you want to get to High Falls you would follow the trail at the end of Katrina Falls road where you park. It was marked Blue. You'll Yellow trails that go off to your left and take you to the river. The first one you see takes you to a nice spot but what you could do is stay on the blue trail mostly south for about 2 and a half miles. You'll pass over Mullet Brook, then soon be headed west for about a 1/2 mile, then south again. You'll be able to hear High Falls. You'll want to go a little too far south, get to the river and head back up because if you do not, you'll encounter a cliff that meets the river. Some places are steep to the river so use good judgement according to your skills and load. If you go about a quarter mile too far, you'll hit another book (you can follow it to the river) and about a 1/4 further the trail meets the river, another nice spot with a sandy beach. You can sort of see this on google maps:
all though google earth is better.
BTW, this is all what we refer to as 'river left'. On river right there's a jeep trail that handycapped people are allowed to access with permission. I was supprised they could get a vehicle in there.
On the NY gazetter from DeLorme both Denton Falls (which isn't really a waterfall) and High Fall (about 5-6 ft.) are marked. Betwenn these two area the river drops 100ft in a 1&1/2 mile so it's quite steep. Please be carefull here especially when the water is high.

Anonymous said...

it pains me that I grew up fishing the neversink and now so many people Know about it, I think I know how native americans felt