Our Man From Canada

FLY FISHING CUBA (part 1 of 3)

Chris Chin (Proulxville, Quebec) - January 10, 2011

Note: I will mention various products and brand names. This is not a product endorsement. I simply use specifics so you can know exactly which equipment I use.

Back in January 2010, I had changed jobs and I knew that my 2010 salmon fishing would be less active. At the same time, friends got back from a fly fishing trip to Cuba. They turned around and started organizing groups for December.

I figured I may as well give this a shot.

Getting ready for the trip was actually pretty simple on my side. I booked a trip to Los Jardines de la Reina, with Avalon Cuban Fishing Centers.

The gear:
Avalon provides a good check list of stuff to bring. Since I was going out of prime time, some of the list wasn’t needed, such as 12wt rods for Tarpon (right!).

I didn’t need much new gear for this trip. My regular salmon rods are all salt water ready with anodized or stainless fittings. I used my salmon reels as well. I rented a 10wt from a friend’s shop and got some saltwater lines. Here`s what I brought:

6wt TFO Axiom 9 ft with a Lamson Velocity V3;

8wt Redington Redfly2 9ft with a Galvan Rush R-8 (which is my usual 5wt switch reel).

9wt Sage Flight 9ft with a Galvan Torque Large Arbor T-10 (my 8wt spey reel)

10wt G Loomis Crosscurrent 9 ft with Sage 6010.

Lines were all Cortland Bonefish lines with 200 yards of 20lb backing. The 6wt and 8wt were for Bonefish, the 9wt for Permit and the 10wt for Tarpon. The Tarpon rod had an intermediate sink Ghost tip. All the others were floating lines.

It was breezy some mornings, so I soon rigged the 9wt eventually for big Bonefish flies. I tied a heavier, shorter leader to help turn over the weighted flies. I would leave the Permit for my friends. Since I wasn’t going for any Class records, the Tarpon rod had a short 41lb 3-4 foot level leader and an 18 inch 60lb fluorocarbon shock tippet – Nothing complicated there!

All the rods, reels, clothes and fly boxes fit into a Fishpond rolling gear and rod bag. I use a Fishpond Cloudburst gear bag as a carry-on and it doubles as my boat bag. I already use C&F Design waterproof fly boxes and my cameras are always in a Pelican case. The Pelican case is my second carry-on. Lastly, I stash a Sage DXL Lumbar Fanny Pack in the rolling gear bag for wading.

To not worry about rods getting lost in transit, with my 2 fishing buddies, we had complete rod and reel sets in 3 different bags, including an assortment of G Loomis, Ross and Hardy rods (including the new Proaxis SINTRIX™ !!!)

The rest of the gear was several fishing shirts, 1 pair of shorts, travel clothes; Simms flats cap, sun gloves and Buff. I also have 3 pairs of fishing glasses (2 for me and one for the Guide if need be).

All my accessories are already salt water resistant so I didn’t need any special tools. I pack on me (even on salmon rivers):

Swiss army multi-tool;

Abel Perfect Tool;

Long nose forceps (10 inch);

Fishpond Pitchfork Clippers;

I had no idea of flies to bring, so my friends put together 3 boxes of flies for me.

I used mostly shrimp for Bones, Crabs for Permit and an assortment of Peanut butter’s and Pinocchio’s for Tarpon.

Some of the stuff you might not think about:

Small laptop or NetBook computer;

Smartphone with a Wi-Fi/UMA setup (so I can telephone from the Tortuga);

Lens cleaner or wipes for getting salt spray off your glasses;

Neoprene cold water gloves in case it’s cool and you do a channel crossing.

IPod loaded with books and films for the bus ride(s) and flights;

Note pad and pencils;

Cold and flu meds. Two of our fishing buddies caught head colds on the trip.

Waterproof camera: You WILL get at least spray on you, so full waterproof is a must. The DSLR and RAW compact stay in the Pelican case most of the time.

The destination:

From Montreal, I flew Air Canada to Toronto then on to Havana Cuba.

Fly fishing Cuba
The departure – I met up with my comrades in arms at the Toronto airport.

Fly fishing Cuba
In Havana, we stayed overnight at the Hotel Central Park (a nice 5 star hotel in downtown Havana).

(Photo NH Hoteles Parque Central)

Up at it early the next morning, we took a chartered bus from Havana to Jucaro at 04h30
Fly fishing Cuba
A bus ride of about 5 – 6 hours and we are at the jump off point.

Fly fishing Cuba
From Jucaro, it’s a 3-4 hour boat ride to the Tortuga.

Fly fishing Cuba
On the ride from Jucaro to the Tortuga – The hat is getting some mileage!

Fly fishing Cuba
The Tortuga

The Tortuga was completely refitted in 2008 and features rooms for 14 anglers, hot showers in each room, air conditioning and Wi-Fi Internet access. There is a dining room, bar on the back deck and sunbathing on the roof. On the foredeck there are rod racks and a fresh water hose to rinse off gear.

We got in a first afternoon of fishing straight off. A day on the Tortuga starts at 6h45. A knock on the door and coffee is presented. Breakfast is at 7h00. The Guides arrive with the skiffs at 7h15 and load the rods, gear bags, drinks and ice. After breakfast, a table is set with the fixin’s for a bag lunch (rice, fish, pork, fruits etc).

One can come back to the Tortuga for lunch, but it can be a long way, depending on where you are fishing, so we preferred bringing lunch.

After a day of fishing, we are back to the boat around 5h30 or 6h00 in the evening. Drinks and pizza to hold off until supper, which is usually around 7h30. We also fished for Tarpon until late at night right off the stern of the Tortuga (hooking many and boating 1).

During the week, we were a total of 5 anglers in 4 skiffs. We had Los Jardines de la Reina all to ourselves!

Next week: Bonefish!

Christopher Chin, Proulxville, Quebec

Editor's Note
It is currently illegal for an American Citizen to travel to Cuba except on official business. Our writer, Chris Chin, is a Canadian citizen and does not come under that prohibition. FAOL does not endorse American Citizens traveling to Cuba.
Sysadmin Note
part two can be found here

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