Despite being one of my favorite bass lakes, I didn't fish Barrett at all last year. As always tickets early in the season were next to impossible to obtain and with the low water year, reports in the early part of the season were poor. So when opening day approached this year, with another dry year, I didn't even bother trying, nor did I even bother looking at reports. Freshwater fishing in general particularly freshwater bass fishing has been poor throughout SoCal and up until last week I ignored looking up reports of Barrett assuming it was the same. According to those reports, Barrett was only having roughly 4 boats leaving the dock each fishing day. Shocking considering this lake normally sells out. I concluded that most are unwilling to pay the high fees to fish here when the open ocean is currently producing some serious tuna action. Despite the low number of anglers entering this reservoir, the gear anglers were reporting over 70 fish days. So I ordered a ticket.
Chul and I arrived at the gate just after 1am and we slept in the Rover until we were awoken at 4:30am by the lights of the lake manager driving toward us to allow us entry. I brought three rods with me, my ten weight for poppers, my nine weight for bulky submerged flies and my newly fixed five weight for my general subsurface fishing. It was still dark when we started just past 5am. My Sage RPLX ten weight is matched with a Charlton reel lined with an eleven weight line. Years ago my buddy, Bryan Webb, gave me a box full of his bass flies, included was a massive hard foam popper with a rattle. It has sat in that box for ages until I decided a few days prior to this outing that I wanted to fish it to try and lure one of the pigs out of its lair.
It was not long before I threw this massive fly that the first fish took. With only a headlamp for illumination I couldn't even see the take and only heard a massive gulp and splash of water so I set the hook. I had no clue what I had on at the end of the line all I knew was that even with a ten weight this fish had some heft and was pulling the boat around. Eventually I pulled him out of the water and saw it's size. After bogaing him at 5 pounds I released him. It took Chul sometime to get his first fish on topwater, it happened just after the sun started peaking through the mountains. He managed at least three or so missing several on the surface. I could not get another fish to stick on my popper despite having at least three attack my fly. With the sun shining through we switched to sinking lines. I started with the nine but gave up after tiring throwing big flies so I moved to the five weight.
We moved to the point Ed and I like to start when we fish together. Putting his Sage Bass rod down, Chul fished his seven weight with a 330 grain line and was taking fish after fish with a shad pattern he tied last night. He managed the only crappie of the day which was a good size. I finally managed my first subsurface bass after a wolf pack attacked the shad just behind us. I threw my ASSF at the boils and within seconds I was on. Roughly 1.5 pounds or slightly greater. Chul caught fish here and there but I couldn't get another one until I switched to the nine again this time with a new shad pattern I created. I concluded that my line 150 grain line was simply not getting to the fish. Once I did that I started sticking fish, all our fish were in the 2 pound range and lower. Hauser was loaded with fish boiling on shad and many of our fish were taken by throwing in these wolf packs. On one session I was three for three, three bass on three casts.
We reached the end of Hauser and switched to our lighter rods, the five for me and four for Chul, to fish the submerged timber. We managed a few bass in the pound range within the wood and Chul managed a bluegill. He had now caught just about every species in this lake, expect for a smallmouth which may no longer exist here. We also caught a fish on each of our rods that we brought. The most successful flies for us were shad patterns with a lot of flash. I created a few flies that all had success. I'm not sure how many fish we ended up with but I'm guessing at least ten a piece. This was not considered a stellar result by Barrett standards but it was a solid outing considering most of our recent fishing trips have been left a poor taste in our mouths. After 11am the winds became too much for our fly lines and by noon we gave up to head out for some lunch.
Drought conditions have not been kind to California watering holes, and Barret is no exception. The lake has completely changed to what I am used to, it was like fishing a completely new lake. All my favorite fishing spots were now at ;east forty feet above water. In the past fishing my 150 grain line was sufficient as I was throwing flies to lurking bass in the vegetation. Now fishing along the banks is mostly fishing boulders and dropoffs so the lighter line wasn't very productive. Hauser and Pine are completely different. Both are barely arms now and significantly shorter. Islands that once existed are no more and are now mountains. I should have taken more pictures of the contours for future reference when the lake fills up again. If I return again this year I will have to do that.