Tag Archives: fly fishing

Crab

’55 Chevys, Mojitos, and Bonefish – A Cuban Adventure

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…

Typical flat
Typical Cuban Flat

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!

Havana
Havana

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.

Deb's fish
Deb’s fish

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!

Bigger fish
Dale’s Bigger 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…

40+

Product Spotlight: Airflo 40+ Fast Intermediate Fly Line

Recently I bought an 8 weight setup to use for this upcoming season but still had a decision to make when it came to the type of line I wanted to use with it. The questions I asked myself when making this decision were: Where and how was I going to fish this rod? What brand of line did I want to use? Did I want to use a floating, intermediate, or a sinking line?

AF40PLUSI thought about these questions and started to answer them one by one, I decided I would most likely be throwing streamers with the rod, and wanted a line I could use to throw large flies for pike and to throw articulated flies for trout in large rivers. I felt like an intermediate line would be the ticket for this application and decided on the Airflo 40+ Extreme Distance Fast Intermediate fly line. I knew Airflo had a great reputation for their fly lines but had never owned one, I had used their lines before on trips and liked them but always stuck with Rio when it came down to purchasing a line. I wanted to try something new so I went with Airflo, I was not disappointed.

The Airflo Extreme Distance Fast Intermediate line has a lot of features I like about it, the Polyfuse coating and the Ridged running line makes for a smooth and slick surface through the guides to get the extra distance needed for long cast, and the weight forward head loads the rod quick for less false casting. The sink rate for this line was also great, one and a half inches per second works great in the situations I would be fishing in, I can get the fly deep by waiting a few extra seconds before I start retrieving the line but slow enough to I can still use it to swing streamers in rivers without the fly getting to deep and snagging on rocks. I also like the translucent green head; I believe it gives it a little more camouflage in the water compared to a solid color sinking line or tip. Since the line is a full intermediate it gives the fly a level plane to drift and during the retrieve, making it easier to create a more life-like presentation of the fly.

40+The only down fall I found about this line is the shooting head on the line is pretty long, making long cast in a confined area tough, it’s not a super aggressive head so casting with trees and bushes behind you can get a little frustrating. You need to make sure you have enough room for your back cast when trying for long distance shots.

What I am using it for and the places I will be fishing it, you couldn’t ask for a better line, I encourage anyone to try this line if you are looking for something to use with streamers in shallow water. If I wasn’t disappointed I don’t think you would be either.

Confluence Pack

Product Review: William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack

Please pay attention to the next five words that you read…….William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack. I really shouldn’t say anything else and keep you all in suspense. However; I will continue to ramble on about this innovative product that everyone needs to add to their fly fishing arsenal.

Confluence Chest PackOut of the box, the pack seems small and you begin to doubt the capability of it holding all your necessities, but once you begin to transfer your gear from your outdated fishing vest you start to realize that this pack is roomy and strategically designed to keep proper things in proper order. This pack is equipped with (2) built-in zingers in which you can attach a variety of accessories. There are (2) side-zip pockets on the front that will allow you to keep sunglasses, magnifiers or other items closely secure and easily accessible. There are (3) zippered compartments on the back pack part of this chest pack. The larger compartment will easily carry a packable rain jacket, extra fly boxes or a day’s lunch plus a drink. The adjustable AirTrack Suspension keeps the weight well balanced and evenly distributed. The comfort is unbelievable and there are no pressure points whatsoever.

Now that I have your attention, let me get to the selling point of the “Willie J” Confluence Chest Pack….. “No-Zip Magnetic Closure System!” I know you’re shaking your head and saying “huh??” Yep, you heard me, (2) magnetic closure front pouch pockets. This is the coolest thing since sliced bread.

042The magnetic force is quite strong and keeps your gear in place. Yet with one simple pull, you can open these pockets and access your needs. The larger magnetic closure pocket has a removable foam Fly-Pad. This pocket will also hold a couple small fly boxes and there are several mesh compartments within this pocket that will secure other essential items that you may need. The smaller magnetic pocket boasts the “Willie J TCS”, Tippet Control System. This system allows you to connect your various size tippets securely inside this magnetic pocket. There is also ample room for weights, floatant and other must-haves. The bottom of this Chest pack has (2) built-in compression straps that you can cinch up a jacket or whatever you need.

I know that I probably forgot (50) or so additional selling points of William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack, but please keep in mind, I am simply sharing my review and opinion of this product. I do not work for William Joseph and I have nothing to gain. Yet I honestly feel that you will gain a lot by giving this pack a looksee. Oh, did I mention that it comes with a lifetime warranty from William Joseph? Well it does!!

A Quick Thanks

As many of you know here at Fishwest we strive to be considered the “World’s Local Fly Shop”. This means that each day the staff here (myself included) come to work ready to serve the customer and provide the best experience in the fly fishing industry. Why am i saying this you ask?

Because its always nice to receive messages like this one from Sam in West Virginia:

“I received my pack today. This is so awesome. I want to thank everyone at Fishwest for keeping my fishing trip on schedule. I was worried that I wouldn’t receive the pack and I leave for my Steelhead trip in the morning. But It was just delivered to my home and I couldn’t be happier. I want to give a special thanks to Lacey…. I couldn’t have asked for a better Customer Support Person. You helped me with my return and got my new pack out the door in time for me to keep my scheduled fly fishing trip. ”

All you fly fishers out there are the reason that we do this. This photo made our day!   Thank you for your continued support!

Sam’s Spring Chrome

 

 

P1020323

Mothers Day and the Caddis Hatch on the Arkansas River

The Mothers Day caddis hatch on Arkansas River in Colorado is famous. Slowly the hatch creeps up steam in late April and early May dictated by the magical water temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. A little extra snow melt cools the water and postpones the movement of cocooned caddis pupa squirming to the surface to shed their shucks and lifting airborne. But don’t worry; with 2 decades of water quality and structure improvement, the 102 miles of the Gold Medal freestone river from the Pueblo Reservoir to Leadville has a plethora of spring hatching bugs. Blue-wing-olives, caddis, golden stones, smaller dark stoneflies and midges now populate the waterway plus Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently introduced salmonflies which seem to like the Ark.

Spring Time Brown
Spring Time on the Arkansas

Dark (purple, brown or black) BWO nymphs size 20 to 26 and bright (chartreuse, orange or red) midge larva, also size 20-26, are always in the water column, moving up or down and deciding if the time is right to surface and hatch. The improvement of water quality on the river that endured a century and a half of mineral mining byproducts has changed the trout from smaller, short lived browns to a mixture of healthy rainbows and browns enjoying a longer life and growing to sixteen inches or more.

Until you see rising fish, Czech or high stick nymphing are the best techniques. Fishing with a long line and an indicator has limitations and works only in certain areas. Use a heavy attractor pattern like a golden stone, smaller dark stone or San Juan worm as the lead fly and a BWO nymph or midge larva pattern 12 to 18 inches lower. Methodically fish and try to reach all the parts of deep tail-outs below riffles, seams and deeper holding water. During the middle of a May day the trout will key into the specific hatch, either caddis, midges or BWOs. A dry fly as an indicator with the emerger of the same insect as the dropper is a good method. The sub-surface tends to be where the action occurs with so much competition with naturals on the surface. Dead drift with long leaders, good knots and fine (6x or 7x) tippets to weary trout.

Nymphing a Run
Nymphing a Run

The tailwater below Pueblo Reservoir is open to angling year round. The spring runoff captured from Arkansas River flows out of the dam at a fairly consistent temperature and generally close to gin clear. When high, discolored water surges through the freestone river section; this is the place to be. Public fishing is available for nearly all the water that meanders through the City of Pueblo. Anglers must pay a small fee in some areas. Colorado Parks and Wildlife have built structures for a decade, studied fish populations and created a first class fishery. The same techniques and fly patterns apply here as the mountainous head waters. The big difference is the city resides at a 5000 foot elevation and frequently has 50 degree air temperatures in January and February. Fly fishers feeling the effect of winter cabin fever, but hesitant to angle in cold weather will find they don’t have to wait for Mothers Day to catch big trout.

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Yeti Tundra

Product Spotlight: Yeti Tundra 50L Cooler

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.

Orvis Mirage Reel

An Inside View: The Orvis Mirage Reel

Many of us here at Fishwest are excited about the Orvis family of Reels. The Mirage is a machined beauty with enough stopping power to work in a variety of Saltwater and Freshwater applications.  Check out the Mirage family of reels by clicking HERE.

Fly fishing the Colorado River at the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Park

It was 45 degrees with blue skies, white puffy clouds and a 25 mph wind blowing up the Colorado River near Parshall.  At noon it looked lovely out the windshield, but I immediately added a coat once outside. With no cars in the parking lot on the mid March day, I was ready to endure a little misery for the sake of fun. Moments later another car pulled up and the driver gave a “Hello” wave. We chatted briefly while booting up and rigging up our fly rods. Then I left the other fellow and headed to my favorite spot by the ranch bridge which has four deep holes divided on both sides of the bridge and river.  The south facing bank had a ribbon of exposed grass in the melting snow while the opposite side had ice and snow to the river’s edge.  Both provided an easy step into the water for wading.

I started below the bridge on the sunny side and used the wind to cast upstream. Comfortably numb, the first hour passed without a strike. Honking geese flew passed and a bald eagle sat on a tree limb just watching. I had rotated through the four holes and was standing on the icy edge in the shade when I saw the first subtle rise, another rise and then a more violent splash. An armada of adult midges quickly appeared floating and swirling on the surface. My brother-in-law a week earlier mentioned he liked to put the weighted nymph on the bottom of the leader and the upper fly on a loop. I figured why not and proceed to tie a bead head black zebra midge on the end of my 6x tippet and make a loop for the RS2. Gloves off, my cold fingers slowly completed the task while trout began to boil the surface. With the first cast a brown was hooked, leaped wildly in the air and disappeared with my nymph as a trophy. Damn, a bad knot.

Numb fingers picked out a replacement midge and fumbled through a new knot while watching the fish pummel the sub-surface. My frustration was followed by fear that I was going to miss this fishing opportunity. Finally I was ready to cast, landed a 14 inch rainbow immediately and promptly hooked my glove with the fly while releasing the fish. Does this happen to all anglers or just me? With gloves tucked neatly in the top of my chest waders, I caught and released a dozen fish in the next 45 minutes with wet fingers in the chilling wind. No longer comfortably numb, my feet and hands were just plain frozen.

P1010257Looking down river I noticed the other fellow had appeared and was catching a fish just below the bridge. With one more cast producing one more trout; I was done and walked across the bridge. Although fighting another fish, he shouted up, “You were really hammering them. Anything big?”

“No, all under 16 inches,” I replied.

“I don’t how much longer I can take this,” he said while releasing the rainbow.

I laughed and walked to my car. Misery loves company.

Helios 2

A Shop Favorite: The Orvis Helios 2

 

The Orvis Helios 2 is a new arrival to the shop here at Fishwest. The 905.4 is  quickly becoming one of most sought after rods in the shop collection to fish for the day. The reasons are simple. These rods are super lightweight with a nice crisp fast action. Simply put the 905.4 is a fine tuned, high performance, trout catching machine. Don’t take my word for it stop in the shop and talk to Jake or Morgan about it and see what they have to say. While you are there give this rod a test cast or two. You will surely be impressed as well.