Our Man From Canada

Fly fishing Cuba (part 3 of 3)

Chris Chin (Proulxville, Quebec) - February 14, 2011

Sysadmin Note
Part 2 can be found here.

When I decided to try salt water flats fishing, I had in mind mostly bonefish. In fact, all the reading I did was on bonefish. It never really occurred to me that the area I was going to was one of the best flats destinations in the World.

Fortunately, friends gave me advice on the rods and gear to bring along. Bonefish rods were 6 and 8 weights. I also had brought along a 9wt for permit and a 10 weight for Tarpon. Friends also put together fly boxes for me so I had 3 separate boxes; one each for Permit, Bones and Tarpon. The Tarpon flies were ordered and the others were tied by a friend in Chicoutimi.

A mix of Permit and Bonefish flies

The last of my Tarpon flies

Actually, when I was getting ready for the trip, I really had no true intention of going for Tarpon. In reality, I was pretty intimidated by the idea! I sort of figured that I could just pass off any opportunity for Tarpon to my Skiff mate. Well, I also forgot that I would be in a single Skiff almost half of the time!!

On the first full day of fishing we were all up bright and early. They had said that there would be coffee delivered to the cabin door at 6:45. Well, at 5:30 I found myself on the fore deck stringing up the last rods in the company of my 4 fishing mates!!! We tossed a coin to see who was going single skiff first (3 of us were sharing 2 skiffs for the week). I won!

A lavish breakfast, eggs, prepared meats, fruits and lots of coffee, and then we prepared boxed lunches of rice, potatoes, poached fish and pork strips. When we came out of the dining room, the rods were all stowed in the skiffs, gear was loaded and the Guides were waiting for us.

There was to be a cold Northerly coming in tonight so we decided to bee-line it for a sector in the North-East where there are usually lots of big Bonefish. Fine I thought, I could learn the ropes a bit on the first day and maybe go for bigger stuff later in the week.

We set out for a 45 minute run to cross the channel then we were to turn up into the sector. We were following the other skiff, just getting across the channel when my Guide hits the brakes, looks over into the Mangroves and turns right. He settles into a bay 40 yards from the entrance to a tiny channel and says “Ok Mr. Chin, Tarpon rod”. Oh great!

The Guide Yesy has a look at my rig to make sure all is up to snuff. He re-ties the leader (Guides are the same all over the world). I show him the flies and he selects one, and then goes about trimming down the wing and shortening the length.

Into the tiny channel, we start looking for Tarpon hiding amongst the Mangroves.


We see them. They are in amongst the mangroves and cruising a pattern, occasionally coming out into an opening in the tees.

The cast isn’t long and there is no wind. Actually we’re almost too close and it’s hard to get the 10wt GLoomis Crosscurrent to load!

On the second cast, I strip long and slow. The lead tarpon turns, follows, follows then takes the fly! I strike with my stripping hand straight back and he’s on! All my trepidation about fishing for this beast evaporates in an explosion of spray when the Tarpon, about 30 pounds leaps. I even remember to bow and point to keep her from throwing the fly.

The she turns, pulls a few yards and leaps straight into the branches of the Mangroves!! I can see my fly dangling into the water and I get a glimpse of one very angry tarpon streaking back into the cover of the swamp.

A few minutes later we are pulling into another channel, more Tarpon. I hook several but don’t boat any. The last one of the morning is on for several minutes, which was long enough for 3-4 short runs. Long enough for the Guide to climb down from the platform and give me pointers on rod position and fighting techniques. I think I’m not setting the hook quite well enough. Practice is needed!

Over the next several days we hook a few dozen Tarpon in the Mangroves, in channels and on the deep flats. Alan gets into a school in a channel and hooks a dozen and boats several one morning.


Eventually, Alan calls us on the radio to tell us to come to this channel. He’s tired!

Permits are a whole different ball game. Actually, I had no idea how, where and when to fish for Permit! We did spend a good evening looking for Permit. We were trying for a Grand Slam for Pierre as he had Bones and a Tarpon in the morning.

Permits are either very wise or very dumb. We had them following the fly, bumping the fly and on 2 shots, nibbling, but not eating the fly. Sometimes the fly would land 18 inches from the fish and it would ignore it. Other times, it would land gently 3 feet away and the fish would bolt!

Most of our casts were very long. The hard coral bottoms in the areas we found Permit makes for lots of noise as we poled the skiffs. Instead of spooking the fish, we were casting 65-80 feet with heavy weighted flies! We didn’t try hard that hard for Permit. The tide schedule was not quite aligned that week. The week later, our friends got into Permit every day and Boris got his Grand Slam on the very first full day!

Our week in Cuba was fantastic. Avalon Cuban Fly fishing Centers has an excellent setup. The Tortuga is a floating hotel, permanently moored in the very heart of the archipelago. All their gear is top notch and the Guides are excellent and professional.

Will I go back? Most certainly. I’m trying to schedule a return trip soon!

Christopher Chin, Proulxville Quebec.

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