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TRIP REPORT- ZAPATA LIVE-ABOARD

 We started out in Havana, taking in a lot of sights in just two short days. Mojitos at La Bodegiuta del Medio are a must.

We started out in Havana, taking in a lot of sights in just two short days. Mojitos at La Bodegiuta del Medio are a must.

Hi all. I am freshly back from a fantastic trip to Cuba, and still getting caught up on all the things that had piled up while I was gone. This trip was aboard the Georgiana yacht, that moors in the very isolated waters of the Zapata Peninsula, west of the famous Bay of Pigs. However, it was not aboard Georgiana! We found out upon arrival that our boat was in for repairs, and we instead would be aboard the dive boat Aggressor, which to our joy was more luxurious, allowing each of us our own private cabins. Fantastic.

 Our home for the week

Our home for the week

We honestly had just a fantastic week in Zapata. First of all, the staff aboard our boat were incredible. From Suli, our hostess, to the captain, chef, engineer and deck hands, the staff worked tirelessly to make sure that we were taken care of. We could not be more grateful.

Best of all, we had almost perfect weather, and excellent fishing. Many of you know that one of the unique things about this fishery is that guests fish 3 days in a shared skiff, and 3 days in a single. This is fantastic. Each guest receives more fishing time, and without another angler to please can ask the guide to target whatever species they want to pursue. All guests had excellent Bonefishing, both from the skiffs and while wading. As well, I think every angler hooked Tarpon nearly every day, whether it was from the single or double boat. There were a lot of Tarpon, ranging in size from truly little guys of around 5 pounds, to fish pushing 25 pounds.

Great back-country Tarpon completed one of our Grand-Slams

And, we had 3 Grand Slams, which of course means 3 Permit were landed! I had no idea that this area had so many Permit, and having seen more of this habitat realize it could be one of the best Permit destinations in Cuba for sheer numbers of fish. On one day fishing with the Permit-crazed guide Cachimbo, we spotted 35-40 Permit. Really incredible.

 The smiling Cachimbo, racking up another Zapata Permit

The smiling Cachimbo, racking up another Zapata Permit

And speaking of guides, again words cannot do them justice. All were exceptionally friendly, and worked hard to make sure that all guests had a great experience. They are very enthusiastic about the fishing, but not to the point that anglers feel pressured like they do in some places like the Florida Keys. They were a great group, and I cannot wait to see them again.

I will be hosting more trips to Zapata. I really feel that I may have misjudged how good the fishing here could be. I already have inquired about a week for next Fall, and should have final dates soon. Please reach out if you are interested.

 Boat staff, guides, and guests atop the Aggressor

Boat staff, guides, and guests atop the Aggressor

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DONATIONS DELIVERED

I am freshly back from Havana and a fishing week on the Zapata Peninsula. What a great trip! Details to follow.....I have been wanting to share my experience with the Cuban schools and kids, that so many of you were generous in supporting with much needed supplies.

A funny part of this story is that I had always been brought to this school by our guide, and friend, Alfredo. I tried many times to reach him once in Cuba, and could not. So, I had 50 pounds of school supplies.....I had to get them delivered. I hailed a taxi and told him in my best Spanish about where the school was. I had no address, but we were able to find it. I just walked in and knocked on the door of the principal’s office, and all was great. They were very happy to see me, and ecstatic with what you had donated. We visited one of the classrooms, and I was able to chat with the beautiful students in Spanish, and we passed out simple things to them like highlighters and glue sticks. What a great experience. Thank you all!

 5th Graders with new supplies in hand

5th Graders with new supplies in hand

 Yours truly posing with these beautiful Cuban kids

Yours truly posing with these beautiful Cuban kids

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School Donations

My last blog entry was about my upcoming visit to Cuba, and bringing school supplies to a primary school on the outskirts of Havana. People had asked to contribute, so I put the news out. AND, people came through! I think I have enough for my next two visits. For all the challenges we have in the good old USA at the moment, we do seem to be able to count on the generosity Americans seem to possess. Thanks so much for all that contributed! I will post photos from my school visit when I return in early November.

 Calculators, hi-lighters, glue, pencil sharpeners, erasers, colored chalk and geometry tools

Calculators, hi-lighters, glue, pencil sharpeners, erasers, colored chalk and geometry tools

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HELP DONATE!

A few months back, I made a post on Facebook about bringing school supplies to elementary schools in Cuba. This is something I have now done a few times, sometimes with customers on a Cuba trip with me. After my post, I was amazed at how many people contacted me offering to make donations the next time I did this. WELL, now is your chance if you are interested. I am leaving October 24th for Cuba, and will again visit students and teachers at a primary school on the outskirts of Havana. When I was there last, the teachers gave me a list of very specific things that they needed for their classrooms. I have sourced them all in bulk, and most items cost between $5 and $20. Please message me if you are interested in contributing. I will send you a link to Amazon where I have a very specific list of requested items.



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DUO IRIS

I have mentioned Dayami and Javier before. After meeting them more than a year ago while singing in Old Havana, we have now become good friends. When I have groups in Havana, we will meet up with them for a performance, often in their apartment in Vedado, where along with their friend Christopher on the violin, they play for us. In this latest video, they collaborate with the famous Brazilian singer Fabiana Cozza singing “Gente Humilde.” If you can find someone with a more angelic voice than Dayami, then you have found a treasure.



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FIRST TARPON

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Lots of fly anglers have never had the chance to jump or land a Tarpon. They are great fish, and should be on everyone's list. My son Greger has been wanting to catch a Tarpon for a few years, and finally this Summer was able to fulfill the dream at Gardens of the King, Cuba. 

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Photo of the Day

It got me thinking, while using Instagram for so many photos of Cuba, that I should post a few photos each week just to remind people of the beauty of the country, and the fishing.

Guide poles guests over a Bonefish flat at last light-Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

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HOSTED Cultural/Fishing Trip for April 2019

Date: April 13-20, 2019

Price: $4995 per person based on double occupancy

 The colors of Cuba in a Havana neighborhood

The colors of Cuba in a Havana neighborhood

This trip to continues in is popularity, and is evolving in to one of the best trips to Cuba that we offer. So many people on fishing trips to Cuba only get a short glimpse in to the life that Cubans lead. Furthermore, they are often surrounded only by the other guests that like them, come from North America or Europe. Our itinerary solves that dilemma. We spend 3 great nights in and around Havana. While there, we tour all parts of the town, at times in vintage American cars. We eat at local Cuban restaurants, and stay in a private Cuban guest house. Because we now have a close relationship with our Cuban guide, we have customized this trip to include things that many other tourists are not able to do. For example, we always try to visit an elementary school where we are able to mix with students and teachers, and bring them supplies that are so hard to come by in Cuba. We also do our best to sample the great music available in this country. This includes musicians playing in restaurants and bars that we visit, but when possible also in the apartment of a couple I now know who are both talented and personable.

"The trip was a fantastic mix of learning and fishing. Making the rounds in Havana before heading out to the Zapata peninsula made the trip far more informative about the whole of Cuba than it might have otherwise been. Jon does a great job of hosting the trip and providing meaningful thoughts on how Cuba works (not to mention how best to cast into the wind from the bow of a skiff). The trip exceeded expectations and left me with a desire to do it again.  I would recommend this trip for both experienced and amateur saltwater fly anglers, and can't say enough about the experience of seeing Cuba as it is today." - Geoff Wilson

 Lucky's first ever Tarpon.....jumped in the Rio Hatiguanico

Lucky's first ever Tarpon.....jumped in the Rio Hatiguanico

After Havana, we transition to the fishing portion of our trip. Our first day is spent Tarpon fishing on the famous Rio Hatiguanico. From there, we place our stakes in the quaint seaside town of Playa Larga. Again, staying in a privately owned Cuban house, we are right on the beach bordering the famous Bay of Pigs. Each morning we travel the approximately 40 minutes through the remote access to the saltwater flats to meet our guides. Our quarry will be varied....from Bonefish, Permit and resident Tarpon, to Snappers, Barracuda and even Snook. In the evenings, we typically enjoy a rum drink on the beach or even in the bay, and then head out for some local food.

 "Sabalito" from the Rio Hatiguanico

"Sabalito" from the Rio Hatiguanico

This is the first announcement advertising this date. I expect trips at this time of year to fill quickly. We need 6 guests, and will accommodate as many as 8. I will be along as host, and together with our local Cuban guides will make sure than any bumps in the road are minor. Please consider joining!

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NOW TAKING RESERVATIONS FOR NEXT CUBA CULTURAL/FISHING TRIP

You have seen my recent posts, and know how jazzed I am about this new trip we have been offering to Cuba. To reiterate, this itinerary includes the best of both worlds. We spend three nights in Havana, and most every hour of the day is accounted for in making sure that we experience all that the city has to offer. After, we transfer south to the small beachside town of Playa Larga. We fish one day in a freshwater river, and three days on the saltwater flats. During this time, we interact with Cuban hosts at our quaint lodgings, visit sights in and around town after fishing, and eat at great family-owned restaurants.

In order to make this trip work, we have to have at least 6 customers signed up. I will accompany the group every step of the way while in Cuba, and of course beforehand in taking care of all necessary details. This will be my 15th trip to Cuba, so I feel I can be of value in coordinating daily with our Cuban hosts, and in handling any challenges that arise.

Details:

November 4-11, 2018

Price: $4950 per person, based on double occupancy (this means 2 guests per room, and 2 anglers per skiff)

Included: 7 nights accommodation in Cuba, all meals except on the first half day, guides and transportation,  entrance fees for activities, four days fishing.

Not Included: Flights to and from Cuba, Cuban Tourist Card (visa), Gratuities, food and drinks over each meal allowance, miscellaneous guest purchases

 Walking tour of Old Havana with our guide Alfredo

Walking tour of Old Havana with our guide Alfredo

 Rio Hatiguanico "Sabalo"

Rio Hatiguanico "Sabalo"

 This selfless pig sacrificed itself to make our group of tourists happy! BBQ at a Cuban family farm......

This selfless pig sacrificed itself to make our group of tourists happy! BBQ at a Cuban family farm......

 The massive Bonefish flats of Las Salinas

The massive Bonefish flats of Las Salinas

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Cuba Cultural/Fishing Combo Trips Continue to Rule!

Along with six great adventurers, I just spent another wonderful week in Cuba. All trips are different, and this was no exception. The greatest part of our trip, and of the continuing relationship we have with our Cuban guides, is the ability to customize these trips as we learn more and more. A couple of the highlights as a result of this collaboration with our hosts, was an incredible visit to a Cuban elementary school, an evening of music in the home of university students, and a pig roast on a farm in the Cuban countryside. 

The challenging part to this particular week in Cuba was the weather we had during our fishing days. May in Cuba is generally considered to be part of the "rainy season," which also includes the months of June-September. Average rainfall in May is usually between five and six inches. We had over twenty inches in about four days! Luckily, our group was made up of experienced travelers who were also friends. Knowing that nobody can control the weather, we made the best of it. A few more mojitos than usual were consumed!

 Joe, Jan, Russ, Lucky, Jeannie and Rich in an American classic

Joe, Jan, Russ, Lucky, Jeannie and Rich in an American classic

After three nights in Havana, we moved south towards Playa Larga, stopping the first day to fish the Rio Hatiguanico. A great Tarpon river, all guests had some kind of encounter with these silver kings. Because of the rain that moved in, we changed one of the days that was meant to be spent on the salt flats, back to the river where being able to see fish is not as crucial. 

 Nice sized juvenile Tarpon from the river. We saw fish from 10-100 pounds during our two days

Nice sized juvenile Tarpon from the river. We saw fish from 10-100 pounds during our two days

What makes this trip so special is the time spent with the Cuban people. Guests come away from their week on the island with a greater appreciation for the challenges of life in Cuba, the resiliency of the Cuban people, and the amazing kindness and hospitality these people possess. Our week ended with a day of Tarpon fishing, and a barbecue at a local farm, hosted by a wonderful family.

 Our dinner undergoing surgery......

Our dinner undergoing surgery......

 The streets of Playa Larga were flooded, as was much of Cuba. This was a huge, and unusual storm.

The streets of Playa Larga were flooded, as was much of Cuba. This was a huge, and unusual storm.

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COMBO CULTURAL/FISHING TRIP REPORT

Touring Plaza Vieja in old Havana

Well, in three short words, IT WAS GREAT! This was the first ever trip we had booked that stepped a bit outside of the fishing only box, and added in several days of visiting sights in and around Havana, as well as outside of the town of Playa Larga where we were based for our fishing. Joining me were two college buddies, a husband and wife, as well as a father and son.

Part of what made this a great trip was that all people on the trip were easy to deal with, and went with the flow. As a host, nothing could be better, and makes the job much easier. In Havana, our local Cuban guide Alfredo organized several days of sightseeing, and everything went without a hitch. We had great food, heard great music, toured a cigar factory, drove the town in vintage cars, saw Hemingway's ranch outside of town,  and much more. Alfredo was knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and truly had everything dialed in for us. 

The beach right in front of our quaint casa

After Havana, we traveled southeast a few hours to the small beach town of Playa Larga, at the very end of the famous Bay of Pigs. We had opted for accommodations at a private Cuban house, and that was a great call. The family took care of us, and every night after a long day of fishing we had the beach in front of us for a quick swim, and cocktails while watching the sunset. Our organizer in Playa Larga was Alex, who equaled Alfredo in his skills. Again, he was perfectly organized, and we went to different small restaurants after fishing each night that would never have been found without a local's knowledge.

We fished four days around Playa Larga. The first was on the Rio Hatiguanico. Famous for Tarpon, the river also has Snook, Snapper and Jacks that are sometimes in feeding frenzies. We also fished three days on the saltwater flats of Las Salinas. Overall, our fishing was a bit slower than average, largely due to strong winds that made some areas hard to access, while other places had water that was somewhat stirred up by the wind. That said, we landed Tarpon, Bonefish, Jacks, Snapper, and one lovely Permit.

I am so pleased with how this trip turned out. As I said, our group was great, but the staff setting this up, and the staff in Cuba was incredible. Thanks to Alfredo in Havana, and Alex in Playa Larga for all their hard work, and in going the extra mile to make this a truly memorable trip. If this the kind of trip that would interest you, please reach out. Some new dates to be set soon, but custom dates and itineraries can be accommodated for groups of 5 or bigger.

 We were surprised by a pig roast in our honor after coming off the skiffs our last day. Here we are with staff, guides, and a few other guests.

We were surprised by a pig roast in our honor after coming off the skiffs our last day. Here we are with staff, guides, and a few other guests.

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GREAT PRICE: ZAPATA LIVE-ABOARD: Hosted by JON COVICH

 

Zapata Peninsula Aboard Yacht Georgiana

October 27-November 3, 2018

$3450 per person

 SOLD OUT!!! (inquire about future dates if interested)

The massive Bonefish flats of Zapata

This is a great opportunity for anglers interested in Cuba to fish one of the most protected marine areas on the island at a very good price. Jon Covich, FlyWater’s specialist for Cuba, will be hosting this trip. This will be Jon’s 15th trip to Cuba, and he will be an indispensible help both before and during your week on the island. 

The ZAPATA PENINSULA is located on the south-central coast of Cuba. Most of the peninsula is a national park, and makes up the largest protected wildlife area in the entire Caribbean. Noted as one of the best bird-watching destinations in the world, it is home to 175 bird species, 900 species of plants, and 31 reptile species including the Cuban Crocodile. The landscape of this area is very similar to Everglades National Park in Florida.

The expansive flats that extend from this huge mangrove swamp are an amazing fishery, particularly for Bonefish. The flats themselves vary from soft to very firm, and anglers do have the chance to fish both from the skiff and wading. Bonefish are prolific, and range greatly in size. While most fish caught are between 3 and 5 pounds, fish pushing double digits are landed fairly regularly.  There are also Permit here, particularly in the outer edges of this vast expanse of flats. Resident Tarpon are found as well, often in the slightly deeper water of the channels and lagoons, or in the mangroves themselves. Jacks, Snapper, Barracuda and Snook are also present.

Nice Zapata Palometa (Permit)

The first night aboard Georgiana is spent in port, giving everyone time to get situated in their rooms, and to arrange tackle. Early the next morning Georgiana steams to a remote moorage, and once anchored, guests begin their first full day of fishing. From Georgiana, rides to the fishing each day will be short, and can be varied to the kind of fishing anglers desire. Best of all, each guest fishes three days in a single skiff, and three days in a shared skiff which means significantly more fishing time per person than all other destinations in Cuba. Guests return directly to Jose Marti airport for flights home (unless otherwise arranged). It is recommended that departing flights be scheduled no earlier than 5:00pm on that day.

 

Home Sweet Home-Skiff and angler return to the Georgiana

Zapata Resident Tarpon

 

 

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