The Tup's Indispensable Dry Fly

A deservedly popular fly designed by Mr R.S.Austin, a tobacconist of Tiverton in Devon, South West England in 1900. He dressed and sold flies as a sideline.

The Tup's Indispensable Flyfishing Dry Fly

DRY FLY PATTERNS. Hook size 12 14 16 - $US each

DF21 Tups Indispensable Dry Fly Hook Size 12   - Quantity: 
DF21 Tups Indispensable Dry Fly Hook Size 14   - Quantity: 
DF21 Tups Indispensable Dry Fly Hook Size 16   - Quantity: 

This version of the old 'Tup' pattern is popular when pale midge or mayflies are on the menu. It is fished dry on the water and moved slowly amongst fish that are feeding near the surface. It can be used effectively in these conditions or for high summer when reduced water flow and high temperatures can make the trout very fussy. It is a useful pattern used to represent light colored mayfly like the pale watery or small spurwing female spinners.

Mr Austin sent a sample of dubbing with tying instructions on how to tie an unnamed fly pattern which he had found particularly successful in imitating female olive spinners to Mr G.E.M. Skues, father of modern nymph fishing. Skues followed the instructions and made the fly. He spent most of the following September testing the fly on his local water the River Ichen and was so impressed that he published his findings.

He also found it was a very effective imitation of a Pale Watery natural insect. He is accredited with naming the fly and suggesting the addition of the crimson seal fur giving the thorax a pinkish hue. The recipe for the pattern was kept secret and thus Mr Austin obtained a monopoly on selling the fly. The article was widly read and lots of orders were placed. “The fly became so popular that Mr Austin became utterly sick of tying it,” Skues wrote in a letter. He was one of two people given the dressing secret by Mr Austin. It was kept a secret until after his daughter, who continued the business, had retired.

Why is it called Tup's Indispensable? Well the 'Indispensable' part comes from the fact that it should not be left out of your fly box as it is such a good fish taker. The 'Tup's' part of the flies name refers to a Ram, a male sheep that is used for breeding. In Britain farmers use a sponge or rag soaked in dye tied to the under side of the Ram. In the morning they inspect their flock and see which females have dye stained backs from being 'tupped' by the Ram.

The original material for this fly was urine and dye stained wool taken from a ram's fleece mixed with lemon colored fur from a spaniel and a little yellow mohair, replaced later with crimson seal's fur. Do not panic! We use modern materials that are the same color but not as smelly.

I use the Tup's Indispensable mayfly fly pattern as an imitation for the female Iron Blue Spinner. It looks very different to the male spinner which have a pale grey body. The female has a reddish brown body and yellow egg sack at the body tip. They lay their eggs in the afternoon and enter the water to attach them to vegetation or branches under the surface. They are at great risk of being eaten by hungry trout that lurk in slower moving water. The females have the common name of "little claret spinners" where as the male has the embarrassing common name of "Jenny Spinner".

Selective surface feeding trout

Surface dry fly fishing is relatively easy when the trout are unselective on what they pick to eat from the water's surface film. The problem comes when the fish start to be choosy.

They may select only those rising nymphs and pupae that have hatched and are standing on the surface. They may choose those that are resting, before hatching, and are hanging from the surface film. They may just target those that are in the process of hatching and causing movement on the surface film.

Similarly during a fall of land-bred insects, mayfly spinners or dead and dying spent egg laying females, trout may select those that are not quite dead yet and are tottering and fluttering on the surface.

How do you choose which type of flies and what method to use to try and imitate the food type the fish are eating? That is easy, stop and use your eyes before you start fishing.

I think all of us what to start casting as soon as we get to the water. It is really hard to make yourself stop and look at what is happening first, especially when there is a hatch on and you can see fish feeding.

Pour yourself a coffee from your flask and study what is going on. What exactly can you see happening. Are the fish being picky or supping down anything they can find. You will then be in a better position to choose the right type of fly that will help you catch more fish. A little bit of patients at the beginning of the day will bring dividends.

Customer's Comment

In the summer, I wade a small brook that can hold trout up to 17”, with most being in the 8” - 10” range. It is only a half hour from home, and I go at least three times a week, fishing for a couple of hours ’til dusk. When the bats start bumping into my rod tip, I figure I have another half-hour of fishing left. Tups Indispensable is my fly of choice, but I have some micro Green Machines I am going to try for the first time there as well. I almost always fish dry, as the trout are rising in a constant dance on the surface . On a good night I could land 50 trout in two hours. I do eat a few, but most are released from barbless hooks.- Stephen Herc, Eastern Canada

Customer's Comment

I was fishing on the upper reaches of the River Dee in Wales. My first trout was caught using your Tup’s indispensable dry fly under an alder branch. It was a wicked place for drag as the tree swayed to-and-fro in the current over the trout. It was a small hook size 18 Tup’s. it took me three casts to get it right. I hooked into a 1 ¼ lb of wild Welsh brownie. It was lightly hooked and I soon released it from my net. I tried another one I spotted in calmer water clearly visible just under the surface. I love sight fishing. It is so exciting. It took me four offers before it took. I never strike with these small flies, but allow the fish to turn and invariably take the fly well down. I use forceps if necessary to extract the fly. John Carruthers, Liverpool

The Tup's Indispensable Flyfishing Dry Fly

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