Fly fisher hooks and releases huge Trinity River brown

Dan Bacher Stockton Record Correspondent

For five years, Cat Kaiser, the fundraising and events coordinator for the Golden State Salmon Association (GSSA), has tried to catch a giant brown trout with a tiny fly on her fly rod on the Trinity River, the major tributary of the Klamath River. 

On the day after Christmas, she finally caught her fish – a colorful 28-inch brown. After taking a photo, she carefully released the fish back into the cold water of the river below Lewiston.  

Not only did she land that fish, but she hooked and released two other quality browns while fishing from the drift boat of guide Ross Wilkerson of the Fly Shop in Redding.  

The brown trout found on the river are Loch Leven browns, introduced from Scotland over a hundred years ago. They will occasionally go to sea; more than 25 years ago I saw a photo of a bright sea-run brown caught by bank angler on the Trinity in the Junction City area.  

It was one of Kaiser’s most exciting days of fishing ever on Dec. 26. “I landed the 22-inch fish in the hole and then 10 minutes later hooked the 28 incher. I hooked both fish on an indicator and a stone nymph fly on a No. 14 hook on 6 pound test leader while using a Fly Shop 6-weight rod,” she said. 

“The first fish I had to finesse so long that I could barely strip the line off the reel. It took about 10 minutes to get in,” Kaiser said. 

“The next fish, the big one, jumped out of water after it was hooked,” she said. “Then it jumped two more times; it had a huge white belly. After I finally got it in, I cried tears of pure joy. I couldn’t believe I landed this giant brown after five years of trying.”  

After she released her trophy brown, she hooked up the final fish, a beautiful 19 to 20-inch brown.  

During her multi-day trip, she also hooked a 7 pound steelhead while fishing with Wilkerson on a different run lower on the river on Christmas Eve, also while using a tiny stonefly. 

“I hope people practice catch and release when fishing for these browns. They are so fun to play with and are difficult to land. It’s even harder landing them on tiny flies,” she said.  

She noted that there is nothing like playing a big brown on her fly rod. “If you strip or reel one centimeter too hard or too soft, that fish is gone,” said Kaiser. Information: (530) 222-3555.   

The Trinity River Fish Hatchery has finished spawning Chinook and coho salmon for the season and is now only spawning steelhead. Only 46 adult steelhead have been trapped to date. 

The total 2020 Chinook count at the hatchery was 8,362 fish, including 7,102 fall and 1,260 spring-run Chinook The coho count was 2,327 fish.  

West Delta sturgeon: Fishing continues to be “really good” in Suisun Bay above the Middle Ground, reported Zach Medinas of Gatecrasher Fishing Adventures. Six anglers caught and released 7 sturgeon, including five legal-sized (slot), one oversized and one undersize, while fishing with him on Jan. 2. 

“We hooked the fish while anchor fishing with salmon roe and lamprey eel in 55 to 70 feet of water,” Medinas said. (925) 497-7171. 

American River steelhead: Fishing was tough for most on the American River below Nimbus Fish Hatchery on Jan. 1.  

However, some anglers landed beautiful steelhead. Angel Lescanu of Sacramento reported catching and releasing three adult steelhead, along with incidentally hooking and releasing a 25-pound salmon, while fishing a bead and prince nymph on a center pin rod. Thanh Nguyen also landed an 18-19-inch steelhead while drifting a soft pink bead below the hatchery. 

Contact Record correspondent Dan Bacher at