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Fly Fishing Cuba – Cayo Cruz 2015
by Dylan Rose

As I now finally have some time to sit back and reflect on my recent trip to Cuba, my mind is spinning from the amazing cluster of sights, sounds, tastes and new experiences whirring through my head. Our group of 10 fly fishing addicted, adventure seeking travelers set out earlier this month bound for new waters, new adventures and a new country to check off our traveling life list. I was ecstatic to share this experience with a great group of anglers and an even better group of humans. A great time was had by all and I can’t wait to get back on Cuban ground again soon.

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Great permit and bonefish along this beach.

Fly Fishing Cayo Cruz
Overall, we experienced slower than expected fishing. We were all very hopeful to run in to migratory tarpon but due to unseasonable and unusual conditions our chances with tarpon were few and far between. With the entire area mired in very windy conditions and a near total lack of rain for the last 3 months, we experienced much warmer than average water temps on the flats and a healthy wind that would just not quit for a moment. Even still, we did manage a few very nice tarpon for the group. One of the most exciting aspects of this trip were our nearly daily and sometimes hourly encounters with permit. I counted no less than 15 high quality grade-A permit shots on one of the days we exclusively targeted them. Unfortunately, brokering a peace treaty between warring nations would have been as easier task than getting a fish to eat the fly. Many of the permit we encountered were happily cruising on rays and relatively comfortable, which made their constant refusals all the more frustrating. At times, we had permit in range and un-spooked for 15+ casts with multiple fly changes and perfect casts landing a foot in front of their nose. My co-leader on this trip, Jon Covich, did manage to land an absolute stunner of a fish and Jaco from our group landed the first permit of his fishing career which was exciting for everyone.

Congrats Mr. Jon Covich! Photo by: Jon Covich

The bonefishing was at times very good and often the size was spectacular. Fish to approximately 7-8 pounds were landed on the trip and when we found them, we caught them. Windows for good bonefishing were relatively small as temperatures were so warm on the flats that the water sometimes felt like walking around in a hot tub. It was evident from the large muds found off the flats that the bones were happiest in cooler and deeper water aside from first thing in the morning. Incredible catches of large jack crevalle, large mutton snapper and one truly enormous cubera snapper (approximately 45lbs) were also very exciting and made for some awesome stories over Mojitos in the evening. I simply cannot say enough about the Avalon staff and guides on the trip. Our yacht for the week, the 106 foot long Avalon Fleet 1, was truly a perfect machine for our purposes and it was clear that every facet of the operation was well planned, well thought out and perfectly executed on the boat. The guides and staff worked so hard for us and there wasn’t a moment on the trip when we were not looked after.

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A nice Cuban bone stops by to say hello.

While the true fishing potential of Cayo Cruz was not witnessed on this trip, it was immediately clear that this place was pristine, wild and incredibly remote. Three things that any seasoned angler can recognize and appreciate in full. We all loved the ability to wade the falst at nearly any time we choose and when fish were caught from the boat, we could easily hop out to fight them. Absent of boat traffic, prop scars on the flats, city lights, houses, tourists or other fisherman, it feels as though you’re accessing an untouched and exclusive hard bottom fishery that you have all to yourself!

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Mr. Covich catches one heck of nice mutton snapper.

Go-With-the-Flow
One must be willing to roll with the punches when traveling in Cuba. Things just simply take longer and are more tedious in many cases. Whether it’s waiting for your flights, checking in to your hotel, dealing with taxis, or lost reservations, it’s just an incredibly difficult place to operate and it’s tough to get things done exactly on time and as expected. A good sense of humor and a total willingness to go-with-the-flow is absolutely required for this destination. Like a lot of travel to 3rd world countries, the more you fight delays, lines or work-a-rounds, the more it will hurt. So my advice is to relax, take it as it comes and in nearly every case, things will just seem to work out in the end.

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I dare you to not get up and start dancing!

Oh, Havana!
After our week on the yacht, we spent a couple of nights in Havana and had the chance to tour the city and experience Havana in all its haggard and painfully beautiful glory. Just before the trip I found Havana Journeys online and everyone in our group set up private tours. I’m usually not one for guided city tours but this was an incredible experience! Ironically, we spent the 4th of July touring Havana in fantastic 50’s era American steel (with Mitsubishi engines!) exploring the sights, sounds and history of this amazing city. Our guides were well educated, spoke perfect English, were extremely knowledgeable and perfectly accepting of our endless dumb questions . They were completely happy to customize the tour at a moment’s notice and were more than happy to discuss any topic we wished, including Fidel’s revolution, the state of Cuba today and public sentiment about Americans (we experienced nothing but love from Cubans for all things America). It was more than just a tour but a real cultural education and the chance to connect directly with Cubans living and working in Havana. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Havana. One moment you’re sipping a perfect Cuban coffee or dashing in to one of Hemingway’s haunts for a crisp Mojito, and in another moment you find yourself in a congo line with one of the original members of the Buena Vista Social Club! In a place where music blasts out of every crumbling corner of the city, rum is cheaper than water, and the locals are friendly and engaging, it’s hard to imagine anyone not having a good time in Havana. Maybe it’s simply my Latin ancestry or maybe it’s just the the history, the heat, the sweat, the blasting congas and an ice cold Cuba Libre, but I found Havana truly addictive and I cannot wait for the next fix!

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Yes, old cars in Havana are a perfect, must see and awesome cliche’!

The Cuban Crystal Ball
No one knows exactly what an Americanized Cuba will look like. It is only 90 miles away from Miami after all. However, with the recent openings of the respective embassies, cruise ships getting in line to service the country and direct flights from the U.S. to Havana on the way very soon (New York to Havana is already in route), my sense is that it will be a very different place in the coming years. Tourism is already a big part of the Cuban landscape but it all seems somehow manageable now without the pressing assault of Americans and all that comes with that. The fisheries are still very well protected and there’s zero evidence to support the thought that somehow the vigilant preservation of their fisheries will suffer from the coming American masses, and that is a great thing. But a big part of the experience of visiting Cuba and more specifically Havana is the wonder that comes with engaging in a country that pushed the pause button in 1959 and never was able to hit play again. Wandering the streets of old Havana is like cracking open a cultural time capsule and the entire old world scene is incredibly beautiful. Couple this with a vibrant, passionate and colorful local people, the whole thing is just so damned charming that it’s impossible not to wonder what will happen when the A-bomb (America) hits. In essence, I think the time is now to visit Cuba and experience Havana. So without being able to look in to a crystal ball and while flights, logistics and visas are still somewhat restrictive, my advice is to not wait. Get to Cuba now, before the borders are wide open and the time capsuled beauty is replaced by wi-fi, Coca-Cola and cruise ships.

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July 4th in Havana Vieja

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How can I book a trip to Cuba?
We are ready, willing and able to help all interested parties put a trip together for Cuba. With all of the recent changes and the continually improving relationship between the US and Cuba, we can help you visit the country legally and 100% on the up-and-up. Setting up an adventure in Cuba requires a substantial amount logistics handling and dealing with flights can be a real challenge. Throw in a dizzying array of varied fishing locales, mothership choices vs. land based resort options, currency conversion issues and a three tiered pricing structure and Cuba can be a real challenge. Let our experience help you get to Cuba the right way and help you to make informed choices on where and when to go.

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