Check out this video from Sage that highlights the best part about Saltwater fly fishing. In my opinion one of the greatest aspects of this type of fishing is Location, Location, Location. The fish themselves aren’t too shabby either! I mean think about it, If the fishing is terrible for the day the sunshine and the flats are hard to argue with. Maybe I am the only one that thinks that way though. All I know is I am constantly dreaming about getting back to places like this.
Having the right tool for the job in a situation like this is absolutely critical. The Salt Rod series from Sage is the latest offering in a long line of great saltwater rods. If this rod preforms like the Sage One or the Xi3 in the field, anglers will be rejoicing all around the world.
If you don’t know already own a pair of polarized glasses is worth it’s weight in gold when fishing. I would argue a nice pair of sunnies is probably the most important fishing accessory. Since the days of Action Optics the staff over at Smith has been committed to bringing some of the best technical eye wear to the fly fishing industry. Smith glasses are a favorite of the shop staff here at Fishwest. From Jake with his Frontman’s to Richard with the Backdrops they can be seen time and time again. If you haven’t had a chance to checkout the offerings from Smith Optics I would urge you to do so.
Without further adieu, check out this awesome video put together by Smith highlighting the excellent Florida Keys fisheries.
From the title, you can probably guess that this article is about fly fishing in Cuba. Cuba is an amazing place and its fly fishing is definitely one of the reasons why.
To be honest I only fished two days in Cuba. And one of those days wasn’t even a good one. Nevertheless, from what I saw, I would recommend fishing in Cuba to anyone…
A quick web search will reveal that most Cuban flats fishing are controlled by an Italian outfit named Avalon. Any monopoly has drawbacks but in this case I think it has been very healthy in preserving the fishery and the environment.
Avalon has fishing operations throughout Cuba, including Cayo Largo, a beautiful island south of the mainland with a handful of all–inclusive resorts. So when my girlfriend Deb and I booked into one of these resorts, it took about 5 minutes for me to send an email off to Avalon. I was hoping to book a day trip and chase some bonefish.
Here’s one of the drawbacks to a monopoly… “Not possible,” they replied. “We only do full weeks. Contact us closer to the date of your trip and we’ll see what we can do.”
I had previously devoured the Avalon website and really wanted to experience their fishery so it was an agonizing wait. Finally, a few weeks before we departed, I begged and pleaded with the Avalon representative and managed to book two day trips. I won’t mention the price – that’s another drawback of a monopoly!
Our very first night in Cuba was in Havana. It was actually New Year’s Eve and we saw a grand Cuban tradition – hurling a bucket of water into the street from the front door. Luckily, we saw it from a distance…
The flight from Havana to Cayo Largo was on board a big dual-prop plane that looked like it dated from the 1960’s. It was terribly noisy but it still gave us a good view of the immense flats that spread out from Cayo Largo. The landing – on a modern airstrip – was surprisingly smooth.
Cayo Largo is an idyllic Carribbean island with only a handful of resorts. A white sand beach? Scenic, rocky coastline? Palm trees? Scub pines? Starfish in pristine water? You can take your pick and with a little effort, you won’t have to share with anyone.
On our first day of fishing, we taxied to the Avalon fishing center and were met by the fishing director and three guides. Yup, our guide and two others. It was a bit like a NASCAR pit stop; we had five outfits with us, and they had them all completely rigged in about 2 minutes. Another minute passed and we were in a state-of-the art skiff, planing towards the flats. I had in my hands a fly box that the fishing director gave me; it held a dozen proven local patterns.
I have to admit, however, our first day fishing was not too remarkable. Deb is not a fan of long boat rides so we fished the closest spots to the dock – a few large flats that were fairly deep and often held permit. However, a cold front had blown through a couple days before. Unlucky for us, the temperatures were still down and the winds were still up.
I think I spotted three fish that day; most of the time the guide was directing my casts across wave-rippled water. Regardless, he was excellent, with eagle eyes and a very patient manner. By the time we pulled up to the dock, both Deb and I had landed a couple bonefish.
We spent the next couple days exploring the island and sampling the excellent mojitos at the resort. When the cold front had thoroughly passed – and the winds lay down – I showed up for a second day of fishing. Deb had elected to spend the day at the resort.
I was paired with a different guide – although his patient, professional demeanor was very much the same as the first. Our plan, he said, would be to fish along a string of small cays that stretched outward from one end of Cayo Largo.
The first spot we pulled up to held an immense school of bonefish. They circled away from us and then towards us. I had absolutely no problem spotting them. It was about as easy as it gets in flats fishing – cast your fly about ten feet in front of the wriggling, cruising mass. Wait ‘til it gets close… A couple strips… Watch five or six fish peel after your fly… Fish on!
With my reel buzzing, the guide would pole like crazy away from the school. We’d land the fish. And then repeat. These were solid 4 pounders. Every one of them went well into the backing. I’d wish I could say that after five fish I was ready for more of a challenge but to be honest – it my personal bonefish paradise. Lots of good-sized, eager, easy-to-see fish!
Nevertheless, the guide didn’t want to educate too many fish and he suggested we push on. And so it went for the rest of the day – from one tiny little cay with a gorgeous flat to the next… It was perhaps the most perfect day of bonefishing I’ve ever experienced. There were no more huge schools, but plenty of singles and doubles and small groups. The water was gin clear, perfectly calm, and never more than knee deep. The bottom was a magical white sand that didn’t hide fish very well. I landed 10 or 11 bonefish that day with a couple going 5 or 6 pounds. I could have landed more but the guide talked me into so many other things…
Like checking out a tiny cut through some mangroves for tarpon. They were in there – four or five good-sized juveniles! They finned lazily, wickedly obvious in the clear water. And just kept on finning lazily as my fly swam past. After a few casts, they melted back into the mangroves.
I also chugged a popper across a couple deep channels for barracuda. One showed himself but turned away. In disdain? I really think that barracuda are way smarter than most anglers think.
The guide even had me tossing a jig on a spinning rod into a couple more channels. He wanted me to sample some of the snapper fishing. Success! A four or five pound mutton snapper grabbed the jig and pulled like only snapper can.
Actually, that mutton snapper was quite an inspiration. Because shortly thereafter, we were about a mile offshore, and my tarpon rod was rigged with a sinking line. I was working a Clouser down among the patch reefs. To no avail, unfortunately. But just the anticipation of a big snapper on a fly rod made it worthwhile.
Before we headed back in, we checked out a couple deeper flats for permit. Truth be known, Cayo Largo actually has quite a reputation for permit. Maybe it’s a good thing that none showed themselves that day; I was riding a bit of an adrenaline high after all the action and a permit might have pushed me over the edge.
Back at the dock, in the comfort of the Avalon fishing center’s couch, I had a couple beers and a slice of pizza and gradually came down. If you ever decide to come to Cuba, bring a lot of gear. It seems the possibilities are endless…
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Here are a few additional notes if you every make it to Cuba…
It might be a tad inflexible, but Avalon runs a first class operation. They rotate anglers through well-defined zones to spread out the pressure. Both guides and boats are top notch.
A day or two in Havana is mandatory! Catch a jazz club, stroll the Malecon, admire the architecture, get a cab ride from a ’55 Chevy (or maybe a bicycle) – it’s gritty and grand at the same time.
The countryside near Vinales – about an hour from Havana – is incredibly exotic. Lush green farms with red soil are butted up against huge domes of vegetation and limestone.
Did I mention the great fishing?
**Editors Note: Being that Dale hails from Canada, It is very easy for him to be able to travel to Cuba for excellent adventures like this one. On the other hand us Americans are not so lucky…
Here at Fishwest we are really excited to be carrying Yeti brand coolers and accessories. These coolers are simply the best! They are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. This video profiles the Yeti Tundra 50L. A perfect cooler for everything from back of a drift boat to the backyard BBQ party. At the end of the day these coolers are strong enough to take on a grizzly bear as well as keep your drinks and food cold for days. What more could you want from a cooler. Check out the Tundra 50L and more by clicking HERE.
The 20 foot Maverick was immense. If I were a track and field official, I would have demanded a urine sample. Hanging off its back was a 200 horsepower Yamaha framed by twin trolling motors. “They do the work,” said my guide earlier. “The push pole is just for course corrections.”
Nevertheless, I had signed up for what H2O Bonefishing calls its “No Boundaries” program. And at that particular instant in time, it was really well named. We had left Grand Bahama Island about 15 minutes ago and there was nothing but ocean all around us – no cays, no flats, no rocks – just ocean. Apparently, we were headed to some isolated cays. Luckily, it was flat calm.
Another 5 minutes passed, and the cays showed up as a couple specks on the horizon. In another half hour, we were hunting tarpon in a shallow bay.
Nothing but a couple of big nurse sharks showed themselves as they lumbered along… We drifted outside the bay to a small point… Tarpon! 40 to 50 pounders rolling luck crazy! I think I got bit on my third cast. Nevertheless, as tarpon are prone to do, it jumped off. And the remaining tarpon, as tarpon are prone to do, got lockjaw.
So off we went in search of bonefish… The rest of the day is a bit of a blur – but a good blur. We fished mostly deeper flats from the boat. We saw huge schools of bonefish, small groups of permit, groups of bones with permit mixed in, singles, doubles, barracuda, sharks… You get the picture. The bonefish weren’t pushovers, but they were pretty grabby. And the 8 or 9 that visited the boat averaged a solid 4 pounds. The permit … Let’s just say they were permit.
It was hard focusing on just bonefish and permit; there were too many other distractions. Like blacktip sharks and barracuda. Don’t let anybody tell you that sharks and barracuda are reckless predators; they knew exactly what I was up to…
I remember one brash 4 foot blacktip and an equally ballsy bonefish. I was winding the bonefish close to the boat when the blackip charged – not the bonefish, but the boat! At high speed! The guide gave it a solid crack between the eyes with the push pole and the shark settled, skulking about 30 feet off our stern. At this point in time, the bonefish ran directly toward the shark. As far as I could tell, the bonefish gave the shark a solid head butt in the flank. The shark, obviously disturbed by the sheer madness of the situation, finally moved off.
Needless to say, that bonefish got unhooked with extra respect.
As we wandered from cay to cay, a lot of fine looking rocks and coral were worked over with a sinking line. The odd jack or snapper was happy to play. Occasionally, a thunderstorm would pop up in the distance, but we’d adjust our course and skip around it.
It was a long day on the water. I left my hotel at 6:30 AM and came back 13 hours later. But those kinds of long hours I can get used to.
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The “No Boundaries” program runs during the summer months. It actually consists of 2 days fishing the plentiful flats close to Grand Bahama and 2 more days plying the offshore cays. The quiet summer winds (and the big boat!) help make the offshore forays possible. The offshore cays offered amazing fishing in terms of size, variety, and numbers. (If you’re a gear head, bring lots of stuff!!!) The closer in waters offered excellent bonefishing, although the fish were a smaller and the variety less. The accommodations were in Freeport and boat got trailered to launch sites around the island.