Comment

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. 

 

Comment

Comment

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.

7Q5A4497.jpg

 

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.

 

 

 

Comment

Comment

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

Comment

1 Comment

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.......

1 Comment

Comment

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/

Comment

Comment

Music In Cuba

The amount of great musical talent is Cuba is incredible. The arts are indeed alive in this country. When in Havana about 10 days ago, I brought my group of angler/travelers in to old Havana. We drank the required daiquiri at El Floridita, and then went to Rum Rum restaurant for dinner. After we had ordered, the door to our private dining room opened. A young couple entered and asked if we would like to hear some music. We could not get enough. Duo Iris is still studying in the music program at the University of Havana. I am not sure how they can get better. Enjoy this short video of one of their songs, and link to their Facebook page for more....

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/duoiris.oficial/

Comment

Comment

Gardens of the King - Trip Report

Back in the USA, after another great trip to Cuba. I was at Gardens of the King on Cuba's north coast with an absolutely great group. Thanks to Tim, Howard, Brian, Jeremy, Katie and Kate for being so easy going and willing to go with the flow. It sure makes a host's job much easier.

Digs for this trip are at the Iberostar Cayo Ensenchos. This is a 5-6 hour drive from Havana, at the very western end of the Gardens of the King (Jardines del Rey) archipelago. This is an all inclusive resort, with access to several beautiful beaches, many different swimming pools, multiple restaurants, cigar bar, theater, etc. Something for everyone.....

Wow. The beach at Cayo Ensenachos is stunning.

Wow. The beach at Cayo Ensenachos is stunning.

This is a highly regarded Tarpon destination. There are Tarpon here 12 months a year, with numbers and size gaining around the end of March, and on normal years staying good all the way through the middle of October. We had some days with very tough fishing, even though we saw fish rolling. And, we had some great days with good numbers of hooked and landed. Our boat saw most fish averaging in the 40-50 pound range. The largest others reporting hooking was around 100 pounds, with 80 being the largest landed. That works for me!

Thanks to our guide Elyses for this great capture of a fish I was fighting as it jumped near our skiff.

Thanks to our guide Elyses for this great capture of a fish I was fighting as it jumped near our skiff.

Tim and I were fishing partners, and learned a lot from our guide Elyses. He has guided at GOK for 18 years, and before that was a biologist for this area for 6 years. He told us the area around GOK was heavily netted for 60 years. In fact he said, 15 years ago, you wouldn't have been able to find a Bonefish or Permit, never mind a Jack or Snapper. Now, new protections are in place. Netting is not allowed, and all fishing is by fly. They are seeing huge differences every year, and Elyses thinks that within 5 years this will be one of the best overall destinations in Cuba. Here are a few other fish we caught.

Our group......host Jon Covich, Howard, Brian, Kate, Katie, Jeremy and Tim

Our group......host Jon Covich, Howard, Brian, Kate, Katie, Jeremy and Tim

The whole gang (minus our man Howard) at dinner in the small Cuban town of Caiberien.

Comment

Comment

EASTERN CUBA-Continued

As I had mentioned in the last post, one of my goals was to get to the very northeastern corner of the Cuba, to the town of Baracoa. I had spoken with other travelers about Baracoa, and done some reading on it, and it seemed like a must-see. Getting there is no easy task however. It is protected, on the north coast, by a rugged and time consuming drive through the mining town of Moa. This road had been closed for almost a year due to damage from hurricane Mathew. Most travelers use the southern route, starting in Santiago de Cuba, and then passing by Guantanamo.  Eventually, the route starts its climb, ultimately peaking in the highest mountains in all of Cuba, before descending towards Baracoa.

The route to Baracoa, looking south towards Santiago de Cuba.

The route to Baracoa, looking south towards Santiago de Cuba.

In all, I was kind of disappointed with Baracoa. I know that it has been through a lot the past few years, trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Mathew in October of 2016. I have to admit being more intrigued by the drive through the countryside, following the coastline westward. Again, this road is only recently re-opened, and rough. I loved it though. I felt like I was seeing places and people that most tourists never find.

People in Cuba lack in many things. They get the basics through hard work, their monthly rations, and a good deal of black-market trading with one another. And they are amazing at using the things that they have, repairing their cars, building carts and wagons, you name it. For kids, they will use anything for a ball. Soccer in Cuba is getting huge. Although baseball is still popular, soccer is easier. All that kids need to put together a game in the street, is something that rolls. No mitts, no bats, no catchers gear, etc. I now bring soccer balls with me on every trip. While in Eastern Cuba, I sought out the kids really needing a new soccer ball. One of the best I found was in the evening, while driving. I saw a huge field next to me, and in the middle a gang of kids playing a rough game of soccer with a flat ball. I found a place to park, and had to make this long walk across the field. They saw me coming forever, as did their parents who were all gathered in the shade nearby. They were so pleased to have a new ball.....the kids all lined up one by one to shake my hand. It was great. After, the parents waved me over, shaking their heads in approval for the gift, and offering me some rum.

Street soccer in a back street of Ciego de Avila.

Street soccer in a back street of Ciego de Avila.

In short, this was a great, great adventure. As with so many travels, it is the people that you meet that make it so worthwhile, and memorable. To close, one last man that I met near the downtown of Ciego de Avila. He was making his way down the street slowly, carrying a heavy bucket by one arm. I knew I had to get his photo. I stopped him to ask and talk with him. He shook his head about the photo, and said "pero soy muy feo." Can you imagine? Look at this beautiful guy........

Comment

Comment

TRAVELS THROUGHOUT EASTERN CUBA

With the 9 trips I have now done to Cuba, I have made a sincere effort to see more than just the fishing. Usually, I try and build in a few extra days so that I can explore neighborhoods in Havana, or travel to a town or two in the countryside. That said, I have never had the opportunity to see any of Cuba east of the fishing locations of Jardines de la Reina and Cayo Cruz.

Just back from a great hosted trip aboard the Halcon in Jardines de la Reina, I made plans to see more of the east. Once off the boat, I picked up my little rental car in Ciego de Avila. It was the beginning of an adventure that was both great, and sometimes daunting.

My stops throughout eastern Cuba, included about 800 road miles.

My stops throughout eastern Cuba, included about 800 road miles.

What people will not understand, not having traveled around the Cuban countryside, is the lack of infrastructure and the wide variety of methods of transportation. The Carreterra Centrale is the highway which runs the entire length of the island. East of Ciego de Avila, however, it is never more than a two lane road. And that road is shared by cars, trucks, buses, tractors, bicycles, hitchhikers, and virtually thousands of carts being pulled by horses or oxen. Imagine going 60 miles an hour down a highway, when you turn a corner and everything has come to a stop because a farm wagon being dragged by oxen is holding up a line of buses and trucks! Then, imagine you are driving at night when the situation is still the same, and there are no streetlights, or even lights on those carts! Crazy.....

I saw most of the known towns in this part of Cuba, like Camaguey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. But much of this region is devoted to agriculture, and is lush and pastoral. While fields of sugar cane were prevalent around Ciego de Avila, crops changed to pineapple, banana, and even squash and potatoes as I moved east. Best of all, there were fields of mango trees, and it was prime time for this best of all fruit. I ate it every day, everywhere I went! Love those mangos.

The best thing I did on this trip was talk with people. My Spanish is getting better. It is still muy malo, but I can have a basic conversation. In every town I visited, I reserved the magic hours of 6-8pm for exploring the back streets. After school and work, and with houses still scorching from the heat of the day, everyone would be outside. There would be groups of men gathered playing dominoes, neighbors talking on their front stoops, and kids playing soccer or stickball in dusty alleyways. With a smile and a Buenas Tardes, everyone would wave you over. "You are Americano? What are you doing here?!!!" Our time together would usually end by sharing a drink of local rum.

Men playing "tiles" on a backstreet in Baracoa.

Men playing "tiles" on a backstreet in Baracoa.

More in a day or two. Just realized that this blog post is getting too long!

 

 

 

Comment

Comment

JARDINES de la REINA Hosted Trip Report

Hi Everyone. It has been a while since my last post, largely due to the fact that I have been in Cuba for the past few weeks. More than a year in the making, I led a group of 6 anglers to the beautiful Jardines de la Reina. We stayed aboard the yacht Halcon, one of the smaller boats in the Avalon fleet.

The yacht Halcon, at anchor in Jardines de la Reina.

The yacht Halcon, at anchor in Jardines de la Reina.

 

All told, we had a fantastic trip. The weather was for the most part cooperative, with wind kicking up only a few days making some of the Tarpon fishing challenging. Tarpon were the main reason we had chosen this time of year for JDR. Late April through June are the prime months to find large numbers of migratory fish in this long archipelago located off the southern coast of the Cuban mainland.

We found Tarpon every day, mostly at well-known haunts to our guides, along the beaches of the southeast end of the island chain, and at the very tip known as Punta del Este. Virtually all of this fishing was by sight, usually casting to small groups of fish lazily cruising down the beach. We did see fish over 100 pounds, but I think the biggest landed was between 70- 80, while the majority of the fish were in the 40 pound range.

A nice fish of about 40 pounds getting released at Punta del Este.

A nice fish of about 40 pounds getting released at Punta del Este.

We also had great Permit fishing.......not catching necessarily! Our guest Paul did land the Permit of a lifetime, weighing in at around 30 pounds. I had a one hour session on our first day where my guide Bemba put me in front of 10 fish. On another morning fishing with Warren, we spotted 15 permit before lunch, with one looking to be pushing 40 pounds. With a little luck, and a little more skill!, we could have ended up with an epic Permit week.

Epic, epic Permit water.

Epic, epic Permit water.

Lastly, hats off to our guides, the crew aboard Halcon, and Avalon for their great organization and service. It is hard to express how helpful all staff is in Cuba, and how amazing they are at giving you great food in a country with few resources (and in this case 50 miles off shore!). Our hostess was Aysa. Leave it to say, all of us wanted to pack her in our suitcases and bring her home with us. She is an angel......

Our dear hostess Aysa, in between guests Paul and Richard.

Our dear hostess Aysa, in between guests Paul and Richard.

Our chef, about to serve dinner. He was outstanding!

Our chef, about to serve dinner. He was outstanding!

All in all, a superb trip. Thanks again to the staff of Halcon, and all the people at Avalon who make things come together. Thanks also to FlyWater for their meticulous attention to detail and customer service. And lastly, thanks to all the guests who came on this adventure. It was a pleasure to get to know you all of you.

From the left, Warren, Steve, Paul, Valerie, Bob, Richard, and our lovely Aysa.

From the left, Warren, Steve, Paul, Valerie, Bob, Richard, and our lovely Aysa.

Comment

Comment

CAYO CRUZ-APRIL TRIP REPORT

Last year, during Spring Break, I brought my oldest son Teddy to Cuba. This year I did the same thing with our youngest son Greger. The two of us spent a few days in Havana where he got to see the city, take collectivo taxis, and have some Spanish lessons from our Cuban friends.

We then rented a car and saw a bit of the country outside of Havana. Our route took us to Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Ciego de Avila, and then finally to the small rural town of Brasil. We spent 2 days fishing from the land-based La Casona, and then transferred to Avalon's yacht the Avalon Fleet 1 for 2 more days of fishing.

We had some trouble with the weather. Strong winds and heavy rains hampered our fishing and visibility a few of the days. We saw some Tarpon in the channels, but could never get close enough to them for a good cast. That fishing will likely get much better as the weather stabilizes. We did have some excellent days wading the backcountry for Bonefish, and also had excellent Permit chances. In fact, our first day Greger had 3 chances at Permit while we were wading. The last one, he caught. We saw another 15 or so fish that day, and with a little luck could have hooked 2 or 3 more.

Greger and Rafael on some Bonefish in a massive flat in the interior flats of Cayo Cruz.

Greger and Rafael on some Bonefish in a massive flat in the interior flats of Cayo Cruz.

Some of the great habitat of the Crayo Cruz backcountry. Rafa sees a few Bonefish in this small lagoon.

Some of the great habitat of the Crayo Cruz backcountry. Rafa sees a few Bonefish in this small lagoon.

Greger and our guide Rafael with a Permit caught while wading. Greger's first of many I hope.....

Greger and our guide Rafael with a Permit caught while wading. Greger's first of many I hope.....

Big Cuda on one of the oceanside flats

Big Cuda on one of the oceanside flats

 

 

Comment

Comment

THE PEOPLE OF CUBA

I am just back from 10 days in Cuba. This year, my youngest son took his Spring Break with me on the island for some Spanish language courses, some adventure travel, and of course for some fishing. More about that later.

From previous posts, it should be obvious that I am a bit of a fanatic for wandering. I love the back streets, I love trying to get where few tourists go, and I am really interested in Cuba and its people. To that end, I am getting better at my Spanish so I can communicate with locals at least in simple terms, and I am always carrying my camera to try and get them on film. Here are a few of the interesting people I found along the way......

Life in Cuba is visible. People have their doors and windows open much of the time (few have A/C) and so you can see a lot of everyday happenings. This beautiful old guy in Havana was doing his best to get a close shave, on the little mirror next to his front door. 

Life in Cuba is visible. People have their doors and windows open much of the time (few have A/C) and so you can see a lot of everyday happenings. This beautiful old guy in Havana was doing his best to get a close shave, on the little mirror next to his front door. 

This might be my favorite people shot of the trip. In the small town of Brasil in the rural countryside, life is pretty tough. I was stopped on the street by some guys wanting me to take their photo, and when I was done I saw all these gals watching from the window of their shabby building. Look at their faces! In can see Joy in one, Shyness in the next, Confidence on another, and Uncertainty in the last. 

This might be my favorite people shot of the trip. In the small town of Brasil in the rural countryside, life is pretty tough. I was stopped on the street by some guys wanting me to take their photo, and when I was done I saw all these gals watching from the window of their shabby building. Look at their faces! In can see Joy in one, Shyness in the next, Confidence on another, and Uncertainty in the last. 

Again in Havana, and again exploring the back streets, my son and I saw this lady staring at us from her doorway. Even without a big camera and lens, we stick out. People will stare at you. Maybe it is the Nike shoes, or maybe that we just don't look like life has aged us so much. Anyway, we said hi, and joked with her, and then got this shot of her great face.

Again in Havana, and again exploring the back streets, my son and I saw this lady staring at us from her doorway. Even without a big camera and lens, we stick out. People will stare at you. Maybe it is the Nike shoes, or maybe that we just don't look like life has aged us so much. Anyway, we said hi, and joked with her, and then got this shot of her great face.

Look at this guy, and you see Cuba. Just off his shift from the sugar cane processing mill, his clothes seem to reflect the colors of the revolution. With the cigar in his hand, and boots that have seen better days, he represents his "Pueblo." 

Look at this guy, and you see Cuba. Just off his shift from the sugar cane processing mill, his clothes seem to reflect the colors of the revolution. With the cigar in his hand, and boots that have seen better days, he represents his "Pueblo." 

Comment