DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Neversink River in New York

Theodore Gordon, otherwise known as the father of dry fly fishing, spent years exploring the rivers in the Catskill Mountain region. He altered traditional English flies, matching them precisely to the insect hatches of the Neversink River. For many, this makes the Neversink the true birthplace of dry fly fishing in the United States.

The name “Neversink” comes from the corruption of a Algonquin language phrase meaning “mad river.” Some anglers might argue that the River is indeed quite maddening; it is known to be difficult to catch trout on the surface as most of the fish feed on the bottom. But with the right approach and patterns, you’ll understand why the River inspired the creation of modern dry fly fishing in America.

Fly fishing the Neversink River in New York

Neversink River is a 55-mile long tributary of the Delaware River. The River’s main course begins when the east and west branches meet in Claryville. Both branches rise from the tallest slope in the Catskills, and the west branch is fed by numerous tributaries including Biscuit Brook and Pigeon Creek.
From Claryville, the River flows southwest until it is impounded to form the Neversink Reservoir, which is part of the New York City water system. There, it is connected by a five mile water tunnel to Rondout Reservoir.
It then flows through the towns of Fallsburg, Woodbourne, South Fallsburg, and Old Falls. In Southern Sullivan County, Neversink passes over Denton Falls and High Falls. It is then joined by Basher Kill, flowing southwest and spilling into the Delaware River at Port Jervis.

At Neversink, you’ll see rainbow, brown, and brook trout, along with the much rarer species of tiger trout. The trout you’ll find here are likely to be on the smaller side, averaging only about six to seven inches long.  

The River is mostly popular with anglers, so your fishing experience isn’t likely to be interrupted by the presence of boaters, rafters, or swimmers.

The rich history of the Neversink make it a popular choice for fly fishermen who want to explore the Catskill Region. James Eldrige Quinlan’s History of Sullivan County, published in 1873, gives a comprehensive account of the area before Theodore Gordon’s time.

Neversink River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Neversink River in New York

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Neversink River

The upper section of the River is on private property, but Public Fishing Rights grant anglers the ability to fish and walk alongside the bank. You can also have luck finding plenty of brown trout right below the Neversink Reservoir and in the tailwater section. 

The tailwater section consists of long, smooth pools that have excellent overhead coverage. You should only use dry flies here when you observe the trout feeding on the surface. You should also take care to use smaller flies, in the 18 to 26 hook size range.

Best Time to Fish the Neversink River

The best times to visit the River are the late spring, early summer, or early fall. Most of the insect hatches take place in the spring. 

While the stocked trout aren’t particularly picky about what they eat, the wild, larger trout present more of a challenge. The most prolific hatch are midges, but you’ll also see Little Brown Stoneflies and Caddisflies, including the cinnamon caddis hatch and Little Sister caddisfly hatch. In the summer, it will become more important to use terrestrial imitations, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and ants.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Neversink River. The USGS stream gauge near Bridgeville, NY provide a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions may not be ideal.


  • Water Temp: 53.24 ° F
  • Flow: 136 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 5.36 ft

Best Flies for Neversink River

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Neversink River:

  • Black Caddis (#16)
  • Blue Quill (#18) 
  • Blue Winged Olive (#18 - 20)
  • Brown Stonefly (#12 - 14)
  • Green Caddis (#16 - 18)
  • Quill Gordon (#14)
  • Black Quill (#14) 
  • Hendrickson (#12 - 14)
  • Red Quill (#12 - 14)
  • Blue Winged Olive (#14 - 16)
  • Midges (#20 - 22) 

Need flies? 

Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black

- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Neversink River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 4X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Need Gear? 

Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.

Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.

High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.

Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet.  3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.

Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable.  If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.

Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market.  Excellent foot and ankle support.  Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.

Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!

Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats.  Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish.  Simply the best nets on the market.

Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam.  If you need more storage - you have too many flies!

Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.

Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.

The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes.  Game changer.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

Neversink River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Neversink River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of New York requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.

You can purchase a New York State fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Trip Planning Tips

If you are visiting the Neversink River, your best bet is to fly into JFK International or LaGuardia, and take the two hour scenic car drive into the Catskills.

Neversink River Campground is located two miles below the Neversink Reservoir, and offers wooded, serene campsites where you can unwind and relax surrounded by beautiful nature. If you don’t mind venturing a bit farther from Neversink or you’re traveling with your family, Brookside Campground provides a wide variety of outdoor activities and events, including bingo tournaments and relay races.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in New York

Feature image by Daniel Case

Ken Sperry

About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

Get Directions to the Best Places to Fish in America!

Check out our interactive map of over 30,000 of the best places to fly fish in the US. Get directions to access points, boat ramps, and real-time USGS stream flow data. 

Get App