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CUBA COMBO CULTURAL/FISHING TRIP ITINERARY

Somehow, when I posted information about this exciting new trip, I did not include an itinerary! Here it is below, showing what we will be doing in Havana, and how the days of fishing shape up.

Date: April 29 – May 6, 2018

Rate: $4,650 per person

Note: Currently 7 spots available (Jon will join as host with a minimum of 5 guests signed up)

Vintage American car, with the Capitolio in the background

Vintage American car, with the Capitolio in the background

Itinerary:

Day 1
Guests Arrive in Havana. Check in to the Hotel Parque Centrale after transferring from airport.
4:00pm: We have a walking tour of the historical Plazas in Old Havana. These Plazas include San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja, “Arma” Square and Cethedral Square.
7:30pm: We will dine at one of Cuba’s new privately owned restaurants, El Canonazo Paladar. This family-run establishment is located in a very small community east of Havana, with a quaint backyard restaurant and fine Cuban cuisine. We will also see the La Cabana Fortress, built by the Spanish to protect Havana’s harbor, and observe the nightly canon blast ceremony.
10:00pm: Return to our hotel via the famous Oceanside Malecon

Day 2
After breakfast at the hotel, we will discover Hemingway’s Havana. This will include visits to some of the author’s favorite haunts in the city, as well as a tour of La Vigia farm, where Hemingway lived and wrote over many years. We will also have a short walking tour of Cojimar, the small fishing village where Hemingway moored his boat Pilar, and was the inspiration for his book, “The Old Man and the Sea.”
12:00pm: Our group will have lunch at the La Moneda Cubana paladar, located next to the Havana Cathedral.
1:30: Our tour will continue around Old Havana, where we will tour a cigar factory, and walk Obispo Street. We will be given an overview of Santeria and other Cuban religions by the scholar Elias Assef, and then watch a dance performance. Finally, we will stop at the famous El Floridita bar and restaurant to sample a Daquiri where it originated.
3:30pm: Before returning to the hotel for a short rest, we will ride in vintage American cars and visit other famous landmarks around Havana such as the University, Revolution Square, the Capitolio, and the famous boulevard along the sea, the Malecon.
8:00pm: Dinner at El Cocinero restaurant in the Vedado neighborhood, with a visit afterwards to the Fabrica de Arte located next door.

Day 3
6:30 am – breakfast at hotel
7:00 am – transfer to Rio Hatiguanico for day of Tarpon fishing
4:00 pm – Depart for Playa Larga, and check in to Hotel Playa Larga
7:30 pm – Dinner at paladar in Playa Larga

Day 4
7:00 am – Breakfast at Angler’s Club at Hotel Playa Larga
7:30 am – Meet your guide and transfer to the flats of Las Salinas
8:30 am to 4:00 pm – fish the saltwater for Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon Snook, etc.
4:00 pm – Return by car to Hotel Playa Larga
7:00 pm – Dinner at Paladar in Playa Larga

Day 5 & 6
Same itinerary as Day 4

Day 7
7:00 am – Breakfast at Anglers Club at Hotel Playa Larga
7:30 am – Transfer to airport for return flight home

 

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EXCITING NEW TRIP! COMBINATION CUBAN CULTURE & FISHING

Time warp in La Habana

Time warp in La Habana

Cuban Cultural & Fishing Tour – Spring 2018 w/ Host Jon Covich

We are extremely excited to offer a new Cuban adventure that combines both an introduction to the culture and life of the Cuban people and the pristine fishery of the Zapata Peninsula. You are invited to join host Jon Covich, who has made more than a dozen trips to Cuba, on this amazing adventure. Jon has spent many weeks exploring the back streets of Havana and visited some of the most remote and seldom visited corners of the country. Jon has fished every available fishery on the island and his unique passion for Cuba and vast experience in the country will prove invaluable to guests that choose to join him on this remarkable excursion.

“ Somehow, I just can’t seem to get enough of Cuba. Besides having fished all the destinations in Cuba, I have made a concerted effort to really understand the country. I am fascinated by the Cuban people, by the way they live, in understanding how they have managed within a pretty difficult political system, and so much else of what it means to be Cuban. In every trip to the island I have added extra days to explore the back streets of Havana, to drive around the less-touristed cities on the island, to go to baseball games, find good music, and discover the best cigar factories, etc. I think that I can add value and insight to people wanting to truly experience Cuba and all it has to offer.”

This unique cultural/fishing adventure complies with all of the requirements set forth by the United State’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. All guests will have the same daily itinerary, and participate together in group activities. Individuals joining this trip are required to retain a copy of their final itinerary for the next five years.

Please do not delay in letting us know if you are interested in joining as we expect space to fill quickly for this trip.

Date: April 29 – May 6, 2018

Rate: $4,650 per person

Note: Currently 7 spots available (Jon will join as host with a minimum of 5 guests signed up)

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NEW ZEALAND BACK-COUNTRY

Yet again, this post is not about Cuba! I apologize, but figure that if you are like me, all fishing is good. And where can trout fishing be better than in New Zealand? If you haven't been, even as just a tourist, you owe it to yourself. Few places are more beautiful, or populated by such lovely people.

There are great lodges on both the North and South Islands. Some of those are Poronui and Tongorairo on the North, and Cedar and Owen River Lodge on the South. These are top notch operations, and some even include daily flights by helicopter to the best rivers in the region. If you have the $'s, like great wine and great food, not to mention a bit of pampering, go for it.

There are also possibilities for a mixture of DIY and guided trips. But for me, nothing beats getting in to the backcountry on your own, and exploring. No country in the world has the elaborate system that NZ has for helping backpackers, deer hunters, and intrepid anglers see these places. There are first of all "huts" built all over the country. They can be extremely rudimentary, and they can be very nice. Just depends on how many people access the area. And, there are DOC offices (Dept of Conservation) in nearly every town to help you with maps, understand access, etc. They are super helpful.

I just returned from spending Christmas with my family on the North Island. My two sons are now 15 and 16, and can handle the rigors of a hike in the wilderness, and tramping up and down streams littered with huge boulders. They especially can do it when there are 4-6 pound trout in nearly every pool, most of which are willing to come up and eat a dry fly. Here are some photos.....

Working our way to places few other anglers have gone before.....

Working our way to places few other anglers have gone before.....

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HOW A PRODUCT IS MADE-FISHPOND SUBMERSIBLE BACKPACK

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This is not something that I have done in the past, as I have tried to keep this Blog largely dialed in to travel and fishing related to Cuba. However, I do represent good companies like Fishpond, many of whose products work great for our travel, or for fishing around the salt and on the flats. If you can, take a second to copy and paste this link to your browser, and see the painstaking process taken by Fishpond in bringing a new product to market.

http://www.moldychum.com/inside-mind-fishpond-thunderhead-submersible-backpack/

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4 SPOTS AVAILABLE!.........GARDENS OF THE KING, CUBA

This is what it is all about at GOK......Tarpon Baby!

This is what it is all about at GOK......Tarpon Baby!

Gardens if the King is located on the North Coast of Cuba, about a 5 hour bus ride from Havana. All guests stay at the all inclusive Iberostar Cayo Ensenachos Resort, which is well appointed, and on a stunning beach. The fishing at GOK is all about Tarpon. Once the Tarpon migration starts, fish that are already here and the new fish gather in the bays and channels around the islands here. These habitats are full of crabs and shrimp, which makes the Tarpon very happy.

There are a lot of fish in the 40-60 pound category which in my book are the perfect Tarpon. They are big enough to make you feel like you are fighting a beast, but not big enough that they cannot be landed in 15-20 minutes. That said, there are bigger fish in the mix, and anglers often hook fish nearing 100 pounds. My guide last year said the largest Tarpon he had landed in his boat was 162 pounds! No thanks....

There are other fish here, but Tarpon are again the main quarry. There are some Bonefish in the back country, but excellent Snapper and Jack fishing around the Tarpon areas and in some of the exterior channel openings and flats. Last year, our group landed 4 or 5 Mutton Snapper that were over 15 pounds. Those are hard-pulling critters.

These available 2 skiffs should fill pretty quickly. The price is good, especially given that this is prime time at GOK. Remember that travel to Cuba is legal, and we have all the paperwork to guide you through that process. Reach out if you, or your friends, would like to join along.

Here is our proposed itinerary:

June 8th: Arrive Havana. Spend a night on the town, with accommodations at a hotel of our choice

June 9th: Transfer to Cayo Ensenachos Resort by private coach. Trip is approximately 5 hours. Check in, and enjoy the rest of the day on the beach

June 10-15th. Fish each day, 2 anglers per skiff

June 16th: Depart Cayo Ensenachos directly to airport and connect to flights home

Price is $5420 per person, double occupancy for accommodations and fishing skiff

Included:  Transfers to and from Havana to Cayo Ensenachos Resort, meals, most drinks, accommodations, and 6 full days fishing.

Not Included: Flights to and from Cuba, $250 Bonefish/ Tarpon Trust donation, $100 parks fee, Cuban Tourist Card (approximately $100) transport from airport to hotel, meals and miscellaneous expenses while in Havana, some beverages aboard skiff, staff and guide gratuities.

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ALASKA AIRLINES CANCELS HAVANA ROUTE

I just returned from 10 days in Cuba, which I will report more about shortly. Something immediately evident , was that American visitors to the island are down drastically in numbers. I flew from Los Angeles to Havana round trip on Alaska, and came back thinking that something was going to change. There were only 44 people in coach out of 160 odd seats filled on that return flight. 

So, I was not surprised when I heard two days ago that Alaska Airlines had decided to cancel their service to Havana as of January 2018. This is sad news for those of us living on the West Coast, and an unfortunate consequence of recent changes in Washington. While in Cuba, I was asked non-stop by Cubans as to why the US and Trump were changing things yet again. People were upset, and in disbelief that their hopes of getting help through increased visitors from the United States was going away.

The worst part of this is that US citizens commonly think that Trump's recent changes mean that they cannot visit Cuba. This is NOT TRUE! That said, visitors are under more strict guidelines, much like they were 4 or 5 years ago. In short, people must go in groups, and have the same daily itineraries. Those itineraries must adhere to one of the 12 legal reasons for travel to Cuba. Anglers generally use research, and travel under a license issued through the Bonefish/Tarpon Trust. And, there must be a group leader who reports on the trip once finished.

We are leading and organizing trips to all of Cuba's fishing destinations for 2018. If you are interested, please let us know and we will get you organized. Let's continue to enjoy Cuba, and help our Cuban friends in any way we can.

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GARDENS OF THE KING, CUBA HOSTED TRIP

A group of us had a great time at Gardens of the King, and Cayo Ensenachos resort earlier this summer. Several people wanted to return, and have talked friends in to joining. As of today, we have 3 available spots open. Below are details. Please reach out if you have any questions. We would love to have you along!

Tim Cudney and our guide Elyses with a perfect Tarpon from GOK

Tim Cudney and our guide Elyses with a perfect Tarpon from GOK

Gardens of the King is highly regarded as a Tarpon fishery. Both residents and migratory fish flourish here, and numbers increase dramatically starting in late Spring and continue on through Summer. Most of our time will be spent seeking Tarpon in bays, channels, and even the open ocean. Most of the fish are between 30 and 80 pounds, although many fish over 100 pounds are caught every season. To add to the variety, there are also some Bonefish, and chances at Permit, Snappers, Jacks and Barracuda.

Here is our proposed itinerary:

- June 8th: Arrive Havana. Spend night on the town, with accommodations at a hotel of our choice

- June 9th: Transfer to Cayo Ensenachos Resort by private coach. Trip is approximately 5 hours. Check in, and enjoy the rest of the day on the beach

- June 10-15th. Fish each day, 2 anglers per skiff

- June 16th: Depart Cayo Ensenachos directly to airport and connect to flights home

Price is $5320 per person, double occupancy for accommodations and fishing skiff

Included:  Transfers to and from Havana to Cayo Ensenachos Resort, meals, most drinks, accommodations, and 6 full days fishing.

Not Included: Flights to and from Cuba, $250 Bonefish/ Tarpon Trust donation, $100 parks fee, Cuban Tourist Card (approximately $100) transport from airport to hotel, meals and miscellaneous expenses while in Havana, some beverages aboard skiff, staff and guide gratuities.

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CUBA SUFFERS AFTER IRMA

Wow, it has been an interesting couple of weeks hasn't it? Fires here in the West, record flooding in Houston, a massive earthquake in Mexico, and then Irma. You have seen the news, and seen the destruction, but it may be that you have not heard too much about Cuba.

It seemed that the worst of Irma was going to miss most of the island, but indeed a good portion of the north coast was hit by the eye of the hurricane, and has been badly damaged. From Camaguey, to Ciego de Avila, Moron, Santa Clara, all the way to Havana people and buildings were hit hard. Wind and waves hit the capital hard flooding much of old Havana. Ten people were reported killed in Cuba as a result of the storm.

Wind and waves pound Havana's Malecon

Wind and waves pound Havana's Malecon

People wading the streets of Old Havana

People wading the streets of Old Havana

We have been getting news from our friends at Avalon and Fly FIshing the Run about the damage. The good news is that everyone we know connected to the fishing operations is OK. The southern coast of the island, the fishing destinations, and the equipment all seem to be intact. The operations along the northern coast, all through the Gardens of the King Archipelago are another story. 

First of all, the causeways leading out to the cayes have seen significant breaches, and are already undergoing repairs. On the islands themselves, resorts, hotels, and even the airport at Cayo Coco have been heavily damaged. We have had reports as well that there has been damage to some of the fishing skiffs and the marinas. With these resorts, and the tourists who come to them such an important part of Cuba's economy, it is obvious that the government will make repairs here a priority.

Some of the damage in the small town of Caiberien, near the fishing operation at Cayo Santa Maria

Some of the damage in the small town of Caiberien, near the fishing operation at Cayo Santa Maria

I have a lot of friends now in Cuba, and have just started getting reports from them via e-mail. One friend in Ciego de Avila said that the night she and her family spent in their little house while Irma passed through was terrifying. She thought all the windows of the house were going to blow out, and their roof be torn off. They were lucky, and those things did not happen. But for them, and friends I have heard from in Havana, most people are still without electricity and water. She went on to say that they must move forward, but because almost everything was destroyed, it will take a lot of time.

For those of us thinking of fishing in Cuba, it pales in importance to the lives of our friends there and what they have gone through. That said, fishing will continue. As I mentioned, the southern operations of Jardines de la Reina, Cayo Largo, Isla de la Juventud and Zapata were relatively unaffected and will be operating. Cayo Cruz, Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria are another story, and will have to rebuild and recuperate. I am sure that they will all be available for anglers in 2018 but exactly when is another story. As we hear more news, we will pass it along. 

 

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CUBA TRAVEL CLARIFIED!!

Those of you who get these blog posts might have noticed how silent I have been about Trump's recent changes in Cuba policy, and how they would effect anglers wanting to head to the island. The truth is, we were all in the dark. There were many questions left unanswered, and both myself and the nice folks at FlyWater Travel felt like we could not go ahead in planning new trips to Cuba, putting customer deposits and plans at risk.

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We have continued to ask questions, and try and get clarity and details. In the past few days, we received the most detailed news of how we could proceed, and are really excited that we can again help U.S. anglers experience Cuba. Below is a synopsis written by Dylan at FlyWater, and published yesterday in their newsletter:

We are pleased to announce that travel to Cuba is 100% legal again.

The recent announcement by President Trump made it clear that the administration would roll back the legal provision for individual travel to Cuba that anglers had been traveling under for the past two years. However, they clearly stated they would continue to permit legal travel for all groups traveling under group “people to people” licensing.

Now, through a partnership with The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust anglers looking to fish Cuba can purchase a group “people to people” licenses on the BTT web site. www.btt.org
The cost of the license is $250.00 per angler.

Details:

The Trump Administration recently announced changes to US policy regarding Cuba, including travel. These changes will go into effect as soon as the Departments of Treasury and Commerce have issued specific regulations, which may take up to three months. These regulations will close the door to “regular” tourism by US citizens—travel for the sole purpose of tourism—but it will leave in place the 12 categories of authorized travel, including the category that covers BTT’s license. Likewise, direct flights, cruises, and tours will continue as before. However, provisions allowing travel under the 12 categories will be strictly enforced.

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has been advised that these changes will not affect our Cuba License Program, which is covered under the 12 categories of authorized travel. US citizens who made travel plans with deposits for a Cuba trip prior to the new regulations being implemented will be permitted to proceed. New travelers will be required to travel as a part of a group visiting Cuba for a specific licensed purpose, including scientific, religious, and educational, among others. BTT will continue issuing licenses to groups of travelers and anglers going to Cuba who comply with the rules set forth under the license we receive from the US government. The price of the license is $250.00, which must be paid by all participants. The proceeds from the license fee benefit flats conservation programs.

In brief, the rules are as follows:

  • Each group must have a designated Group Leader.
  • The Group Leader must be pre-designated and their name provided to BTT prior to travel.
  • The Group Leader must write a trip report to be submitted to BTT no later than 30 days after returning to the US. The report must include the names of all the travelers in the group and provide details of the entire trip such as where everyone stayed and what they did. It must include that the group interacted with Cubans and helped further BTT’s research initiatives in Cuba.
  • In compliance with the above, the Group Leader must report where travelers fished, describe the vessels they boarded, report on water conditions, fish species encountered, fish abundance at sites visited, the condition of the marine habitat, catch and release practices, personal experience with guides, and other information that will help the organization track the status of the Cuban fishery and those using the resource. As additional research projects arise, BTT may ask licensed travelers to participate in specific ways. These may include, for example, BTT tagging programs or DNA fin clip programs.

 

 

 

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FERNIE, B.C.

Huh? Fernie, B.C.?!!! I thought this was supposed to be a Blog all about Cuba! I know, but to tell the truth I just couldn't resist. Every summer I take my two boys on a week-long fishing trip. From the beginning, we dubbed it the "No Mom.....No Rules" trip. That meant that hand sanitizer stayed at home, meals could be brawts and chips every night, and sliding down steep canyons walls looking for fish was acceptable.

Past years have taken us to Lake Chopaka, the St Joe, the Missouri, the Bighorn, and numerous other rivers in the west. This year, we headed 10 hours by car to the northeast, to the small Canadian Rockies town of Fernie.

Beautiful? Check. Lots of rivers to fish? Check. Dry fly fishing all day long? Check again.

A big thank you goes out to our friend Paul, owner of Elk River Guiding Company who not only advised us on good water, but leant us a drift boat for a day on the Elk. Here are a few photos of our week......

The Bull River......an hour from Fernie.

The Bull River......an hour from Fernie.

Tributary of the Elk River

Tributary of the Elk River

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HAVANA STREET SCENES

I have been lazy in getting this out, and thought while wasting time in the Houston airport I could actually be productive!! When last in Havana, I made time to walk the back streets as I usually do. This time, my friend Bill Colello and Seattle University soccer coach Pete Fewing had managed to get me a bunch of soccer balls. Flattened, and amongst all my fishing gear, I was able to bring along 10! Finding the right kids is always the hardest job, but in the end it is never that difficult.

A great group of kids, they were playing marbles on this dirty side street when I came across them. Happy, grateful, and polite to be getting a few soccer balls from the USA.

A great group of kids, they were playing marbles on this dirty side street when I came across them. Happy, grateful, and polite to be getting a few soccer balls from the USA.

These great guys worked in a corner bodega, where I was trying to sneak some shots of customers buying their fruit and veggies. They busted me.....and wanted a photo of themselves!

These great guys worked in a corner bodega, where I was trying to sneak some shots of customers buying their fruit and veggies. They busted me.....and wanted a photo of themselves!

Side street flower vendors....... "Tienes una esposa?" "Si" I replied. "Quieres una novia Cubana?!" they asked next!

Side street flower vendors....... "Tienes una esposa?" "Si" I replied. "Quieres una novia Cubana?!" they asked next!

Sunflowers for sale.......

Sunflowers for sale.......

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HOSTED TRIP- AGUA BOA AMAZON

Some of you may have seen this announced in FlyWater's weekly newsletter. I have wanted to go the the Amazon and fish for Peacock Bass for a long time. In talking to many guests about it, the reviews were stellar from the Agua Boa trip. We booked in what is generally regarded as the prime time to find large numbers of fish accessible in low water. 

Our fishing dates are March 9-17, 2018. We already have 3 anglers booked for the trip, with advertising only starting yesterday. That means we have room for another 4 guests before we are full. I would love to have you along. Please let me know if you are interested, or if you have further questions that I can answer in regards to any aspects of this adventure. 

For more information: https://www.flywatertravel.com/blog/2017/07/06/agua-boa-amazon-lodge-hosted-trip/

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