How To Tie The Slump Buster? Steps To Follow

Do you know the Slump Buster is best for attracting predatory fishes? With its lifelike appearance, baitfish profile, and subtle flash, this fly has become a go-to choice for trout, bass, and other predatory species. So how do you tie the Slump Buster?

Tying the Slump Buster is a straightforward process that can enhance your fly fishing success. Start by securing the bead and tying it to the zonker strip. Create a dubbing loop and Palmer collar, then wrap the ribbing.

Finish with tight turns and a whip finish. The Slump Buster is a versatile pattern suitable for both beginners and experienced fly tyers. So, grab your materials and get ready to tie this effective fly!

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through the step-by-step process of tying the Slump Buster fly. From gathering the right tools and materials to mastering the tying techniques. So, stick till the end!

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Why is the Slump Buster Fly Considered a Successful Fly Pattern?

The Slump Buster fly is a highly effective pattern that was created by renowned fly designer John Barr. Barr, known for his famous Copper John nymph, developed the Slump Buster about 15 years ago.

Since then, it has gained popularity among fly anglers and has proven successful on various rivers and lakes. The pattern’s name itself suggests its purpose – to help anglers break out of a fishing slump and entice finicky fish to strike. But why is this considered a successful fly pattern? Let’s take a look:

The Lifelike Appearance and Baitfish Profile

One of the key reasons the Slump Buster is so effective is its lifelike appearance and realistic baitfish profile. When tied properly, this streamer pattern closely resembles the small fish and aquatic prey that trout and other game fish feed on.

The combination of materials and tying techniques used in constructing the fly creates a realistic silhouette and movement that can trigger aggressive strikes. The Slump Buster’s profile, along with its subtle flash, makes it highly enticing to fish, especially trout.

Why is the Slump Buster Fly Considered a Successful Fly Pattern | Honest Fishers

Unique Features of the Slump Buster Fly

The Slump Buster fly boasts several unique features that set it apart from other streamer patterns. Firstly, it is a weighted streamer designed to sink quickly and reach the desired depth in the water column.

This feature makes it particularly effective for targeting fish holding in deeper water or during times when fish are feeding near the bottom.

Additionally, the Slump Buster incorporates a jigging action, imparted by the weight and design of the fly. This action mimics the darting and erratic movements of injured or fleeing baitfish, triggering predatory instincts in fish and enticing them to strike.

The jigging action can be achieved through various retrieval techniques, such as short and quick strips followed by pauses or long, slow strips.

Another noteworthy feature of the Slump Buster is its durable fur strip wing. The wing, typically made of a squirrel zonker strip, provides excellent movement and creates a lifelike profile in the water.

The fur strip wing adds to the fly’s overall effectiveness, making it even more enticing to fish. The combination of the weighted pattern, jigging action, and durable wing make the Slump Buster a go-to choice for fly anglers seeking to entice trout and other game fish into striking.

What Tools and Materials Will You Need?

Before diving into tying a Slump Buster, let’s make sure you have all the essential tools and materials. Tying a fly is like being an artist at the vise, and having the right tools can make the process much more enjoyable. So, make sure you have the following tools and materials in your hand:

Tools Requirement For Tying Slump Buster :

  • Vise: A good-quality vise is the backbone of your fly-tying setup. It provides stability and allows you to secure the hook firmly while you work. Look for a vise that offers adjustable jaws and a sturdy base, ensuring it can accommodate different hook sizes.
  • Bobbin: A bobbin holds your tying thread and allows for controlled thread tension. Look for a bobbin with a ceramic tube, as it provides smooth thread flow and reduces friction.
  • Scissors: A sharp pair of fly-tying scissors is a must-have tool. You’ll use them to trim materials, cut thread, and shape your flies. Opt for scissors with fine, precision tips to ensure clean and accurate cuts.
  • Whip Finish Tool: This tool helps you create secure and neat whip finishes at the end of your fly. It simplifies the process and ensures your thread won’t unravel. Consider getting a whip finish tool with a comfortable grip for ease of use.
  • Hackle Pliers: Hackle pliers are handy for handling delicate materials like hackle feathers. They provide a firm grip, allowing you to wrap materials evenly and precisely. Look for pliers with a comfortable grip and a smooth, non-slip surface.

Materials You Will Need To Tying Slump Buster:

  • Hook: For the Slump Buster, a Dai-Riki #700 in size 8 works well. The hook’s size and strength are crucial factors in successfully imitating baitfish and attracting larger fish. The Dai-Riki #700 is known for its durability and ability to handle larger fish.
  • Cone Head: The cone head adds weight to the fly, helps it sink, and gives it a realistic profile. Opt for a large-sized nickel cone head that fits the hook securely. This ensures the cone head won’t come loose during casting or retrieving.
  • Lead-Free Wire: Adding weight to your Slumpbuster is essential for getting it down in the water column. Point 0.2 lead-free wire is a great choice for adding weight without harming the environment. It’s pliable, easy to work with, and won’t damage your tying tools.
  • Tying Thread: Choose a heavy-duty thread that can handle the pressure of securing materials. UTC 140 denier in brown olive is a reliable option. It’s strong, durable, and offers excellent thread control.
  • Ultra Wire: Ultra wire serves as the ribbing material in the Slumpbuster. Choose a color that complements the fly and adds an attractive touch. Chartreuse is a popular choice, as it adds contrast and visibility to the fly.
  • Sparkle Braid: The silver Sparkle braid adds flash and movement to the Slumpbuster. It imitates the scales of baitfish, creating a realistic appearance. Make sure to select a quality brand that won’t fray or lose its sparkle after a few uses.
  • Pine Squirrel Zonker Strip: The zonker strip provides the Slumpbuster’s tantalizing tail and body profile. Choose a color that mimics the natural hues of baitfish. Chartreuse is a popular color that often triggers strikes from predatory fish.

Now that you have an overview of the essential tools and materials needed to tie a Slumpbuster, you’re well-equipped to embark on your fly-tying journey.

Step-by-Step Guide for Tying a Slump Buster

After gathering all the needed material, you are ready to tie this effective fly pattern. Now follow this step-by-step guide to get a perfect Slump Buster:

Step 1: Attach the Hook and Add Weight Material

Take the hook and insert the cone head into the place. With the cone in place, ensure the hook is firmly secured in your tying vise. This fly performs well with added weight, so let’s incorporate some point 0.2 lead-free wire.

Wrap the wire around the hook shank about 20 times to stabilize the fly. Apply a drop or two of your favorite adhesive to the hook shank and wraps to secure the wire in place.

Step 2: Start the Thread

Load a bobbin with a heavy tying thread. UTC 140 denier in brown olive is a great choice. Start your thread on the hook, shank immediately behind the wire, and take wraps rearward.

Snip off the excess tag end. Then, take wraps forward over the weight to further secure it and create a thread ramp down to the hook shank.

Step 3: Add the Rib

For the fly’s rib, we’ll use chartreuse ultra wire, but you can choose any color you prefer. Cut a 10-inch piece of wire, secure it to the near side of the hook shank, and take thread wraps to bind it down all the way to the bend. Wrap your thread forward to just behind the weight.

Step 4: Attach the Sparkle Braid

Cut four to five-inch lengths of silver Sparkle braid from the card. Secure one end of the braid at the tying point and take wraps rearward to the bend. Then, wrap the braid forward, up the hook shank, all the way back to the edge of the cone.

Apply a little adhesive to saturate the thread wraps if desired for added durability. Secure the braid with several tight turns of tying thread and snip off the excess close.

Step 5: Prepare the Zonker Strip

The final ingredient for this fly is a pine squirrel zonker strip. Choose a color that suits your preference—I’m using chartreuse. Hold the butt end of the strip and remove a small amount of fur to expose the bare hide.

Step-by-Step Guide for Tying a Slump Buster | Honest Fishers

Push the hide up into the cone on top of the hook shank and secure it with thread wraps. Make sure it is securely bound down to prevent it from pulling free.

Step 6: Shape the Tail

Stretch the zonker strip rearward by gently tugging on it. Wet your fingers to make the fur more manageable. Preen the fur upward so that it forms a ninety-degree angle to the hide.

Position the fur just above the ribbing wire and start making wraps between clumps of fur to secure the strip all the way up the shank. Try to make the wraps fairly, even without binding down too much fur.

Step 7: Secure the Wire and Trim the Tail

When you reach your tying thread, take wraps to secure the wire firmly. You can use fine-point wire cutters or perform a helicopter motion to break the wire off.

For the tail length, it’s a matter of personal preference. I prefer a fairly short tail, so I’ll snip off the hide, leaving a length slightly longer than half the hook shank.

Step 8: Attach the Second Zonker Strip

Take hold of the remaining pine squirrel strip and remove a small amount of fur from the end. Secure it to the hook shank just as you did with the previous strip.

Start making wraps so that the hide is wrapped around the hook and the fur is swept back. Pack the wraps tightly behind the cone, leaving no space between the two.

Secure the strip with a few tight turns of tying thread, trim off the excess close, and take a few more thread wraps to ensure everything is seated below the edge of the cone.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

Complete a 5 or 6-turn whip finish to secure the thread, then snip or cut your tying thread free. Congratulations! You’ve successfully tied a Slumpbuster fly.

Feel free to experiment with different sizes, colors, and weights. The Slumpbuster is an incredibly effective pattern, especially in high-discolored water, and has gained a reputation for catching big fish.

Customizing the Slump Buster for Different Fisheries

Every body of water and region has its own unique ecosystem, with different prey species and varying fishing conditions. By customizing your flies to match the local prey and adapt to the specific fishing conditions, you significantly increase your chances of enticing fish to strike.

Benefits of Customizing

Customizing your Slump Buster allows you to mimic the appearance and behavior of the prey species that fish are actively feeding on. When fish encounter a fly that closely resembles the prey they are accustomed to, their predatory instincts are triggered, leading to more aggressive strikes.

Furthermore, customizing your flies to match the local prey species helps you blend in with the natural surroundings, making your presentation more convincing. It’s all about fooling the fish into believing that your fly is a genuine food source, and customization plays a crucial role in achieving that goal.

Explore The Color Variations

One of the easiest ways to customize the Slump Buster fly is by experimenting with different colors. Fish respond differently to various color patterns, so it’s important to have a range of options in your fly box.

While olive, black, and sculpin olive are popular choices, don’t hesitate to try out other colors that match the local forage.

For instance, if crayfish are a prevalent food source in your fishing area, consider tying a Slump Buster in a rusty brown color to imitate these crustaceans. On the other hand, if you’re targeting baitfish, opt for silver, white, or chartreuse variations to mimic their appearance.

Size Variations

Size matters when it comes to fly fishing, and adapting the size of your Slump Buster fly to match the conditions and target species is crucial.

While a standard size 10 Slump Buster is versatile and suitable for trout, you may need to adjust the size depending on the fish you’re targeting and the prevailing conditions.

When fishing for larger game fish like bass or pike, tying bigger Slump Busters, such as size 4 or 6, can help attract their attention. On the other hand, downsizing to a size 14 or 16 Slump Buster can be effective when trout are feeding on smaller prey or during periods of low water clarity.

Adapting the Fly to Imitate Specific Prey

Crayfish Imitations: Crayfish are a favorite food source for many game fish, and imitating these crustaceans can lead to exciting catches. To create a Slump Buster that imitates a crayfish, consider using brown or rusty brown colors.

You can incorporate materials like rubber legs, marabou, or rabbit fur to mimic the appearance of claws and antennae. Additionally, adding weight to the fly or using a sinking line can help you present it at the right depth, where crayfish are often found.

Sculpin Imitations: Sculpins are bottom-dwelling fish that are particularly appealing to trout. To imitate sculpin with your Slump Buster, choose olive or dark brown colors.

Consider incorporating materials like marabou or rabbit fur for a bulkier profile and using a conehead to help the fly dive to the depths where sculpin typically reside. Vary your retrieve technique by adding short, darting strips to imitate the erratic movements of the sculpin.

Baitfish Imitations: Baitfish are a staple in the diet of many game fish, and the Slump Buster can be adapted to imitate these small fish. Opt for colors like silver, white, or chartreuse to mimic the shiny and vibrant appearance of baitfish.

Using flash materials like crystal flash or flashabou can add an enticing element to your fly, replicating the flashes of light that baitfish produce when swimming. Vary your retrieve speed and incorporate occasional pauses to imitate the stop-and-go movements of baitfish.

Tips for Fishing with the Slump Buster

Fishing with the Slumpbuster can be an exciting and productive experience. This versatile fly pattern is known for its ability to attract fish, especially in high-discolored water. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your fishing trips with the Slumpbuster:

Vary the Retrieve:

The Slumpbuster’s profile and movement make it an excellent choice for imitating injured baitfish. Experiment with different retrieval techniques to mimic the erratic movements of wounded prey. Try a mix of short, quick strips, pauses, and occasional long, steady retrieves to entice predatory fish.

Target Structure:

Predatory fish often hide near underwater structures, such as submerged logs, rocky outcrops, or weed beds. Cast your Slumpbuster close to these structures and work it through the desired areas. Pay attention to the depth at which you’re fishing and adjust the sink rate of your fly accordingly.

Fish at Different Depths:

The Slumpbuster’s weight allows you to fish it at various depths in the water column. If fish are actively feeding near the surface, fish the fly with a floating line and a shorter leader.

When fish are deeper, or the water is moving swiftly, use a sinking or sink-tip line to get your fly down to the desired depth.

Tips for Fishing with the Slump Buster | Honest Fishers

Use the Slump Buster as Part of a Tandem Rig:

Consider fishing the Slump Buster as part of a tandem rig. You can tie a smaller nymph or an emerger pattern to the hook bend of the Slump Buster using a dropper tag. This setup allows you to target fish feeding at different depths and gives them a choice of offerings.

Pay Attention to Water Conditions:

Water conditions play a crucial role in determining the effectiveness of the Slump Buster. It excels in high-discolored water, but it can still be productive in other conditions. Adapt your presentation and retrieve speed based on water clarity and fish behavior.

Observe and Adapt:

Always pay attention to the behavior of fish and adjust your fishing approach accordingly. If you notice fish feeding near the surface, switch to a floating line and fish the Slumpbuster just below the surface. If fish are holding deeper, switch to a sinking line and fish the fly at the appropriate depth.

Remember, fishing is as much about understanding fish behavior as it is about fly selection and presentation. Stay observant, adapt to changing conditions, and enjoy the process of experimenting with the Slumpbuster to find what works best in different fishing scenarios.


The Slump Buster is a versatile and effective fly pattern that can help you break out of your fishing slump and land impressive catches. By learning to tie this baitfish imitation and customizing it to match local prey species, you’ll have a fly that entices a wide range of fish.

Remember to experiment with different retrieval techniques, consider fishing depth, and adapt your tactics to increase your chances of success. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more fly fishing tips and tricks.