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How to Tie Ellis Hatch’s Hatching Pupa

Producer: Tim Flagler

This is New Hampshire fly fishing and tying legend Ellis Hatch’s signature pattern, the Hatching Pupa. It can be tied in a variety of color combinations but the red rib and natural stripped peacock quill body shown here is probably the most common.

Before you actually start tying, it’s a good idea to let your stripped peacock quills soak for at least ten minutes in a warm water bath, to make them more pliable and less prone to breakage and splitting.

For a hook, I’m going to use a nice modern-looking, barbless Fulling Mill 5105 in size 14. Begin by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of black Veevus 16/0. It’s super thin, very strong and allows you to take quite a few wraps without building up a lot of bulk. This really helps, particularly for the fly’s quill body. Get your thread started on the hook shank behind the eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping off the excess tag.

Pull down and strip free 8-10 wood duck fibers, doing your best to keep their tips aligned in the process. Measure to form a tail a hook shank in length then transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the bend. While holding the wood duck with the fingertips of your left hand, begin taking thread wraps to bind it to the top of the hook. Pulling up slightly will encourage the fibers to lay on top of the shank, as opposed to being pushed over to the far side. Continue taking thread wraps all the way back to the start of the hook bend. With the tail looking good, pull up on the excess butt ends and snip them off close.

Small, red Ultra wire is used to rib and segment the fly as well as protect the delicate stripped peacock quill beneath it. A 6” length will make numerous flies. Get hold of one end of the wire and lay it against the near side of the hook so it extends just shy of the initial tie-in point. Start taking thread wraps forward to bind the wire to the near side of the hook, all the way up to that point.

Retrieve a single stripped peacock quill from the water bath and carefully strip off the excess water. While holding the butt end, gently pull down the quill until the brittle tip breaks off, as you’d rather have it happen here than during tie-in. Spin your bobbin counterclockwise to lightly uncord and flatten your tying thread. With the remaining tip of the quill extending a 1/4” or so past the hook eye, begin binding the quill to the top of the hook shank with the flattened thread. Go first back to the base of the tail then forward to the initial tie-in point. This type of thread, when uncorded, becomes two very thin strands, which you can see here. When you reach the initial tie-in point, break the excess tip off close.

To wrap the quill, I prefer traditional-style hackle pliers over plunger-style, which will sometimes slip on the slick quill. Get hold of the butt end with the pliers and start taking wraps so the quill begins right at the base of the tail. This is extremely delicate work and don’t be at all surprised if the quill breaks. Simply unwrap to get rid of the previous tip then tie in a new quill. Continue taking wraps to produce a realistic, segmented body on the fly. When you reach your tying thread, use it to anchor the butt end of the quill then snip the excess off close.

Now get hold of the red wire and start making counter wraps with it over the top of the quill to both rib and segment the body as well as protect the quill. When you reach your tying thread, use the wire to change the direction of your thread wraps. This will bind the wire tightly to the hook shank. After a couple of counter turns, again use the wire to reverse the direction of wrap back to normal. Take a few more thread wraps to ensure everything is locked down really well. Then helicopter the wire to break it off close.

You can then use UV cure resin or head cement to further protect the delicate body of the fly. Here, I’m using Sally Hansen Hard as Nails. A fine-tipped bodkin is a wonderful tool for spreading whatever coating you use evenly over the body. Once the coating is cured or sinks in and dries, you can continue tying the rest of the fly.

A single strung peacock herl is used to create the fly’s abdomen. Break or snip off an inch and a half or so of the herl’s brittle tip and, with the longer, brighter green flues pointing down, anchor the stem to the near side of the hook. Take thread wraps rearward to establish the back edge of the thorax, about 1/3 of the way down the shank. Then wrap forward, leaving your tying thread an eye-length space behind the hook eye. Begin taking wraps with the herl, the longer fibers should stick out. Keep taking touching wraps forward to build up a fuzzy, little thorax on the fly. When you reach your tying thread, use it to anchor the herl then break or snip the excess off close.
If you have them, angled-tipped tweezers like these will really help with the next step. Keep them easily accessible. Pull a single Hungarian partridge feather free from the skin. It’s lower, non-fuzzy fibers should be about as long as the hook. Strip off all the lower fuzzy fibers then hold the feather in the fingertips of your left hand, with its front side facing you. The tweezers will help to get hold of just the very tip of the feather. Then sweep the lower fibers down toward the butt to expose the tip. Snip that tip off to form a small triangular shaped tie-in anchor. Lay the tie-in anchor against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it. Keep taking wraps forward, all the way to the back edge of the hook eye. Now, reach for your plunger-style hackle pliers, which will work just fine for getting hold of the feather’s stem. Bend the stem down through the fingertips of your left hand a couple of times to fold the fibers back. With the majority of them pointing rearward, start taking wraps to create a sparse collar on the fly. Use your tying thread to anchor the stem before snipping the excess off close. Continue taking thread wraps, first rearward to keep the collar canted back, then forward to cover up any excess stem or fibers peaking out.

With things looking good, reach for your whip finish tool and use it to complete a 5 or 6 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free. A drop of head cement, or here Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, applied to the thread wraps will ensure they don’t come unraveled and add some shine to the head of the fly.

And that’s Ellis Hatch’s Hatching Pupa – a whole bunch of magical fly tying materials packed into one handsome little package.