July 28th, 2008
The Neversink Skater
It is likely there are many modern fly fishers who have never heard
of the Neversink Skater. It is equally likely they have never heard
of the Neversink River or Edward Ringwood Hewitt, the dean of
the Neversink River.
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
Edward Ringwood Hewitt [1866-1956] wrote several important
books about fly-fishing including Better Trout Streams, which was
a book that outlined his theories for stream management. Hewitt
was the dean of the Neversink River, a Catskill stream where he
maintained a fishing camp. Both Hewitt and his fishing camp on the
Neversink are gone, buried under the backwaters of the Neversink
Reservoir that was built to supply water for New York City.
Hewitt had a reputation as a technician and a creative thinker, and
one of his inventions was the Neversink Skater. Those who knew
him described him as a somewhat taciturn individual with a blunt and
direct approach to everything. The Neversink Skater was originally
tied, according to a written account authored by Mr. Hewitt, to imitate
butterflies that he saw fluttering over his water on the Neversink.
Whatever the fly actually imitated it was quite successful under the
The Neversink Skater is a big fly. Tied on a size 16 hook it is fully
two inches in diameter when properly tied. What makes the
Neversink Skater unique is the way it was tied, and like many 'old
school' fly fishermen Mr. Hewitt would not reveal exactly how it was
tied. A properly tied Neversink Skater consists of two hackles tied
facing each other so that the hackle tips form a knifelike edge all around
the perimeter of the fly. Vince Marinaro described it as "two saucers
brought together, with the hollow sides facing one another."
While Mr. Hewitt was alive he was the sole source of supply for these
flies. Many people tried to figure out exactly how Hewitt tied these flies,
but to my knowledge only one man ever successfully unraveled the
The Neversink Skater intrigued my old friend Vince Marinaro, and
although the fly seemed to be nothing more than two large hackles
tied with the dull sides facing each other, to get the right effect
baffled professionals and amateurs alike. The hackles had to come
together with a knifelike edge otherwise the fly would not perform
Vince took one of Hewitt's skaters and cut it apart with a razor
blade over a sheet of white paper, and after examining the debris
for several days he uncovered the secret of tying the fly. Since
Hewitt was a personal friend Vince decided not to reveal the
secret until after he was dead. In 1976 Vince wrote an article in
Outdoor Life magazine where he related the complete
story about the Neversink Skater and exactly how to tie it. He
had previously related to JC and me the secret upon the promise
that we would not reveal it.
The story of the Neversink Skater is one of the intriguing aspects
of angling history. Many of the anglers from those days perfected
tactics and fly-tying methods that they took with them to their graves.
We will never know what knowledge was lost because of that mind
set. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
Note: For more on the Neversink Skater click HERE.
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