Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tup's Indispensable; or, Tup's Nymph

This dressing follows Leisenring's version of Skues's Tup's Nymph, except that it uses a synthetic and natural dubbing thorax and dove hackle rather than dun cock's hackle. (The picture below the dressing of the fly above gives a slightly better sense of the coloration of the materials in the dressing.)


Light Cahill

Very small light-blue hen hackle or medium-dark honey dun hen hackle

Silk buttonhole twist – Coats and Clark’s 157-A primrose yellow, size D

Red fox squirrel belly with lavender and tangerine Needleloft plastic canvas yarn

Dun mourning dove hackle from the neck or shoulders

In The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph (1941), Leisenring dressed the Tup’s Indispensible as a nymph:
“HOOK      13, 14.
SILK           Primrose yellow.
HACKLE   Very small light-blue hen hackle or medium-dark honey dun hen hackle.
BODY        Halved: rear half of primrose-yellow buttonhole twist; thorax or should of yellow and claret seal fur mixed dubbing spun on primrose-yellow silk.
TAIL           Two honey dun hackle points.”

Leisenring derived his pattern from that of G. E. M. Skues and R. S. Austin. In his Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream (1910), Skues gives a partial dressing, “as near the dressing as I am at liberty to give,” for the pattern Austin introduced to him and, afterward, allowed him to name. Skues gives this dressing for the Tup’s Indispensable: “Primrose tying silk lapped down the hook from head to tail, a pale blue or creamy whisk of hen’s feather as soft as possible and not long, three or four turns of coarser untwisted primrose sewing silk at the tail, body rather fat, of a mixed dubbing of a creamy pink, . . . and a soft blue dun hen hackle, very short in fiber, at the head, the dressing being preferable finished at the should behind the hackles.” 

In the 1976 spring special issue of Fly Fisherman magazine, T. Donald Overfield explains that "Skues wrote to Austin to request the dressing for this fly, in particular the rather odd body dubbing material. Austin replied and sent Skues a small bag containing the dubbing mixture. The mixture, one of the more exotic known to 20th century fly-dressers, had as a primary constituent the soft hair taken - possibly under protest - from the scrotum of a white ram, or 'tup' as that animal was called in Britain - hence the name given the fly by Skues!" For both Skues and Leisenring, this body material made an excellent and effective thorax, despite the difference in materials that Leisenring used in the thorax of his nymphal pattern.


  1. I really like the looks of this fly. It just looks really buggy.

    1. I like to tie some like this and some with a slimmer profile, using hen hackle or soft indian cock hackles. I think it can be a pretty good imitation of sulfurs, though I like as a general fly in the spring. Nemes writes about it for pale morning duns, too.