October 26, 2021
This text was initially titled “Comfortable Fish” within the Horizons column of the June-July 2016 challenge of Fly Fisherman journal.
For a very long time the flats of Cuba had been solely accessible to People who had been adventurous and rebellious sufficient to sneak in via Mexico or fly direct from Canada. Now the forbidden fruit of Cuban fly fishing is a straightforward flight direct from Miami or New York. Stamps in your passport at the moment are a ceremony of passage, not a legal responsibility with the potential for big fines. Journey restrictions and rules for People are falling away weekly, a lot to the chagrin of the Canadians and Europeans who’ve had this jewel to themselves for many years.
The explorer in me has at all times wished to go to Cuba, and for good cause—the proximity, the tradition, and the Caribbean magnificence blended with huge flats well-known for grand slams of the large three—allow, tarpon, and bonefish. Havana exudes authenticity like few locations on Earth. The Previous World structure lined in pale and chipped paint, the dancing and music within the streets, guayabera shirts and straw hats, and particularly the previous automobiles. Even the unprecedented portions of Che Guevara T-shirts and copies of The Previous Man and the Sea lining the streets can’t distract you from the soul and vibrancy of the place. Having a mojito in La Bodeguita del Medio the place Hemingway sat is definitely worth the value of admission. These are the essential aspect tales to the fishing.
Hungry Cuban Fish
Stunning flats with copious numbers of allow, tailing bonefish, and rolling tarpon imply that Cuba ought to be on the quick checklist. However simply seeing fish in a spot doesn’t at all times imply the fishing is sweet.
One factor that has held true on all of my visits to Cuba is that the fish are blissful.
You don’t see spooked or pressured fish appearing tremendous skittish or manically paranoid. The allow are cruising and feeding. They’re driving on the backs of rays, cruising within the surf, pushing onto the flats when the tide will get proper, and so they all are largely simply excited about feeding. They’re the place they’re alleged to be and doing what they’re constructed to do—eyeball your fly, get your coronary heart charge up, and make you suppose “that is the second.” Should you put it on the market they’ll nearly at all times give your fly the stink eye, they rush it and take a tough look—and generally the bastards even eat the fly.
I picked up my finest allow to this point on my current journey to Gardens of the King on the north aspect of the island. We had been on the lookout for blacktails all week, however the tide wasn’t proper. On the final day we had a ten A.M. departure and Coki, a legend of a information in Cuba, pushed to get on the water early for a two-hour window to shut the deal for me. Backside of the ninth, bases loaded, and he hit the lights. Three cruising fish, one forged, and the road got here tight on the primary strip. It was a phenomenal option to finish every week.
Whereas allow reign in my boat, the silver kings of Cuba are additionally a main goal. In contrast to anyplace I’ve ever fished for grownup tarpon on the flats, these fish eat. Should you make the precise forged and transfer the fly, they crush it each single time, and that gill rattle of a tarpon is difficult to beat.
I’ve but to make it there throughout prime tarpon season however there are some fish round nearly each month of the yr. The height migration right here begins in late March and continues via Could and June.
Bonefish are actually nearly in all places, and when you do it properly they often reward you. Cuba has wholesome populations of fish, and a great common dimension—they’re greater fish on common than Mexico and Belize, however not fairly as giant because the Bahamas. I wouldn’t journey to Cuba only for the bonefish, however it helps spherical out the day as you look ahead to the tides to cooperate for tarpon or allow.
The fishing is the thread that ties all these adventures collectively however in the end it at all times falls second to the expertise of the tradition, the historical past, the folks, and the journey.
To have a fantastic journey in Cuba it’s good to respect the advanced and unpredictable nature of frontier fishing. Too many individuals are scared to get out of their consolation zone, get rattled when plans are derailed or don’t go as deliberate, and search for incorrect turns to complain about, quite than deal with all of the great issues that occurred by happenstance, and the fascinating folks they meet. Cuba will not be for these of us. Should you can roll with the punches and chortle off the inconveniences you’ll have an unimaginable expertise.
The checklist of surprises in Cuba is lengthy, and the logistics of attending to the fishing could be brutal. Latin tradition blended with the Caribbean perspective means issues don’t occur quick in Cuba. I’ve but to verify right into a resort once they even have my room prepared. I as soon as arrived at midnight, and nonetheless my room wasn’t prepared. At 12:45 A.M. they advised me it was prepared so I let myself into the room—however the couple sleeping inside weren’t anticipating my firm. My 5 A.M. bus pickup was 40 minutes late, leaving me questioning if I had missed it. That four-star resort that comes along with your fishing package deal may need sizzling water, however in all probability received’t have purposeful Web entry. In case you are on the lookout for a killer Cuban sandwich you higher decide it up in Miami earlier than you get on the aircraft. That mindset is essential on any journey to Cuba, but in addition serves you properly anyplace else on this planet. It’s the important thing to having a fantastic journey full of tales and nice reminiscences.
There are fairly a couple of misconceptions about Cuba floating round. Whereas these Caribbean flats haven’t seen the fishing site visitors that the Florida Keys have skilled, it’s not precisely uncharted water. The remainder of the world by no means stopped visiting and fishing Cuba, and the fishing applications are well-developed with skilled guides who’ve been fishing these waters for years. The flats should not over-pressured. Every clothing store has unique fishing zones—there are not any rogue operations or guides. Much more essential, the Cuban authorities has been proactive in creating marine parks and reserves, and these are the areas the place you might be fishing. Gardens of the Queen is a big nationwide park, with patrolled enforcement. It’s a beautiful factor to see.
Keys to a Nice Cuban Fly Fishing Journey
Everyone seems to be leaping on the Cuba bandwagon recently however no American company has been doing enterprise there for any size of time. My first journey was radically totally different than my second. The distinction? I traveled with Jim Klug of Yellow Canine Fly Fishing Adventures and though he solely began reserving journeys not too long ago when journey restrictions eased, I used to be with him on his twentieth journey to Cuba so he helped create a radically higher expertise for me.
Journey with the precise expectations. In case you are signing up for Shangri-la lights-out fishing on untouched flats the place allow leap into your lap, Cuba will not be for you. If standing in entrance of a resort at 5 A.M. questioning in case your bus will present up sends you right into a downward spiral—don’t go there. Should you can roll with the punches, and take within the sights and respect the overall expertise, it is a journey for you. It’s nonetheless flats fishing and allow are troublesome fish in all places. You’ll nonetheless should work for them, however good anglers are ultimately rewarded.
You may have powerful days and possibly even powerful weeks. However the fishery is wholesome and the bones, allow, and tarpon are there, appearing identical to you’d need them to behave. These are blissful fish, and they’re prepared to eat.
There is no such thing as a doubt change coming to Cuba; some adjustments might be nice, however I count on a few of the allure to erode with inevitable bus a great deal of American vacationers who will trample via Havana. The nice information for fly fishers is that the Cuban authorities is means forward of the curve with conservation and fisheries administration, and I count on to see an ever-improving fishery with operators who solely get increasingly more dialed in.
Oliver White owns Abaco Lodge within the Bahamas and co-hosts with Jimmy Kimmel, Jim Belushi, Yvon Chouinard, and others the TV collection Buccaneers & Bones on the Outside Channel.