The following is an excerpt from Barr Flies written by John Barr, fly tying photos by Charlie Craven (Stackpole Books, August 2007, 184 pages, 570 color photos, 22 illustrations) which is available at Fly Shops and booksellers everywhere." />

The Slumpbuster by John Barr

Book Reviews & Excerpts — By on August 29, 2009 4:32 pm

Anglers often fish streamers by casting toward the banks from a drift boat with sinking-tip lines. This approach can be effective, but in pressured waters the trout get conditioned to seeing flies cast to the bank and ripped back into the current and may just flash the streamer or not react at all. Good fish are caught doing this on pressured waters, but not with regularity. I have fished streamers from drift boats with the bank-pounding approach, and on pressured rivers have foul-hooked many small browns (which can be quite aggressive) on the second fly. The little browns were reacting to the flies, but not eating them. I have had unbelievable fishing while pounding the bank, but only in rivers with little pressure. Another traditional approach, often used by wade-fishermen is, using a sink tip, casting across and slightly downstream and swinging the streamer through a run. This approach has been successful for years and can be very rewarding. It does limit the way you can fish your streamer-you are limited to casting, swinging, and stripping, then picking up and doing the same thing again.

Nowadays, if I am streamer fishing pressured rivers from a drift boat, I most often cast my flies into the main current. I usually fish streamers with a floating line and a 9-foot 0X leader. I cut off the 0X regular monofilament tippet and replace it with fluorocarbon. If all I did was fish streamers in rivers my entire leader would be fluorocarbon; however, I use the same outfit fishing top water bass, for which I do not want to use a full sinking leader. It has been written that attaching a fluorocarbon leader to regular mono creates a weak connection. I have never found that to be the case. I have caught hundreds of large trout on 6X fluorocarbon tied to 5X monofilament. When dealing with 0X the knot strength is a non-factor.

The long leader allows the flies to sink rapidly. The Slumpbuster is heavy and two of them gives you plenty of weight to get the flies down in a hurry. You don’t need a sink tip to get the flies down. The floating line gives you a lot more presentation options. I will throw to banks and swing it on a tight line occasionally, but my favorite and most productive way to fish the Slumpbuster-whether wade or drift boat fishing-is to cast slightly upstream, throw an upstream mend in the line, and let the flies sink. Trout love flies that are dropping. While I am fishing out a cast I keep throwing little mends and just let the flies drift along with an occasional twitch or slight strip. At the end of the drift, I let the flies swing until the line comes tight to the flies. I will give a couple of hard strips and cast again. A fish may be following the drifted and twitched flies and a couple of fast strips can sometimes produce some vicious takes. Many of my largest trout have come while the flies are dead-drifting.



This large brown ate a black Slumpbuster fished dead-drift. LANDON MAYER



The conventional way to fish streamers while wading is to cast across and downstream and swing your fly on a tight line, stripping in line to impart action to the fly. When fishing streamers from a drift boat, most anglers bomb the banks. I have a few different approaches that seem to work better on pressured trout. When wade fishing, I often cast upstream or across stream and throw a few mends into my fly line to sink my streamers deep. I’ll then strip and twitch and dead-drift the fly until it swings below me. After it is swinging on a tight line, I strip in line to impart action to the fly. Sometimes, I high-stick the streamer like a nymph and then strip it as it swings downstream of me. When I fish from a boat, I also use this technique, and instead of casting toward the bank, I often focus on midstream pockets and shelves.

To detect the strikes while dead-drifting you can’t have a lot of slack between your rod tip and the flies, or you will miss the take. This may require lifting the rod tip or subtle hand twists of the line. So it is not a true dead-drift like you get while indicator fishing with nymphs. I like to let the flies dive behind boulders and rocks and into depressions or off shelves. If I am fishing the bank and the water is shallow, I strip really fast so the flies don’t get hung up on the bottom; then, when my flies come to a deeper water, I let the flies dive down the face of the drop-off. Trout love diving streamers. It is a motion they don’t often see. The double Slumpbuster setup is not meant to be fished in really shallow water.

Rust is a good color, although there are not many rust-colored baitfish. I think trout may be taking the rust as a dead or molting crawdad. Keep in mind, sometimes we think trout are as intelligent as we are, and maybe they don’t see the color rust very often, and they just want to give it a try. I do not have a definitive answer to why trout like the color rust; they just do. It is probably my favorite color streamer whether stripped or dead-drifted.

“The Slumpbuster is my all-time favorite fly. We always fish two streamers when hunting the big yellowfins (browns) and flesh-eating bows. A variety of streamers are used as the point fly, but they are always trailed by the Slump. We have caught more fish streamer fishing with the Slumpbuster than any other pattern.”

-Jason Hamrick, Cowboy Drifters,

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The Slumpbuster by John Barr, 8.3 out of 10 based on 6 ratings


  1. Wow! Great fly and great information. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. wamarsh says:

    thanks for great article, I tie a leech pattern my fishing pal uses with great success on Big Lake and nearby springs in Fall River Valley in No. Calif, he calls it trout candy. It is 100% squirrel zonker.

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  3. pete says:

    I own John Barr’s, Barr Flies. It is a GREAT book!! All the patterns are spelled out just like this excerpt on his Slumpbuster. All the photos, descriptions, and instructions are awesome. I highly recommend this book to all those that love to tie flies… and those that just love to fly fish. The Slumpbuster is the new standard which all others will be judged against!!

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  4. Paul Bowen says:

    I’ve been tying a very similar pattern for about 10 years. I call mine a Pzonker. I also weight mine with lead wire and tie them with rabbit. I add flash under a long tail and have a stinger hook to prevent too many shory strikes. It has been a great fly.

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  5. Great looking fly. I’ll be looking for those squirrel zonker strips, so i can try your pattern in the Bow River.

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  6. Larry Tullis says:

    It’s a very effective pattern and more durable then the Zonker. The similar version I’ve been fishing since the late 70’s I call the Bunny Matuka. I also frequently use stripped squirrel, muskrat or mink now instead of rabbit, especially in smaller sizes. I went to it because the Aztec and the original Matuka didn’t have enough natural action for me. Pearl dubbing brushed out also works well as a body material.

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  7. I tied this pattern to fish the Upper Androsocggin River this Fall. Very productive. I added some flash and rubber legs behind the collar, but I’m not sure it was necessary. I’ll be looking for his book.

    Thanks for the post,

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  8. flyline64 says:

    I concur–a great fly. Relatively simple to tie, durable and effective. The only negative is that even with proper tying, the tail may foul.

    I’m not the most avid streamer fisherman, but when I do fish streamers, this is my first choice (generally either natural or black squirrel–the body and cone colors may vary).

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  9. James D says:

    I use a modified Slumpbuster in Western WY for ravenous meat-eating
    native Snake River Cutthroats that is my best streamer hands-down. The biomass of our rivers consist mainly of various species of large stoneflies and Sculpins. I usually trail a large soft-hackle stonefly behind the Slumpbuster, the recipe I use follows:

    1. Olive magnum rabbit strip tied in as recommended by Mr. Barr.
    2. A tail of cream marabou with a little flash on both sides
    3. A body of dubbed cream and white rabbit fur and chopped lite-brite. I tie the body using a dubbing loop technique. Starting today I am adding some pink fur in the dubbing blend because some of our Sculpins exhibit pinkish undertones along their belly.
    4. I also utilize a black tungsten conehead to supply a little color contrast like a natural Sculpin.

    My favorite river is your typical roaring western freestoner and the dead drift/high-stick technique is ideal for getting my rig down quickly in the narrow/deep slots and drops-offs where typically the larger cutthroats reside.

    Thanks John Barr for all your wonderful fly inventions and the Slumpbuster is my favorite big trout fly.

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  10. Kyle Moppert says:

    This fly, the “Squirrely Tukass”, was originally developed in the early 90’s (’92 or ’93?), by Arkansas fly fishing guide, Jeff Guerin. He tied them both with or without coneheads. He gave me several of the originals, all of which were effective when fishing the White River in Arkansas.

    Jeff list it for sale in on his web site:

    Kyle Moppert

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