All right, I know that this is going to be up for debate, but cut me a little slack! I get a lot of questions about tackle for anglers heading to Cuba, and we of course talk a lot about fly patterns. These 3 flies are in my opinion, must haves for most of Cuba, when pursuing Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon.
I cannot get beyond this fly. In past Bonefish trips to other parts of the world, I had fished all the usuals, with the Gotcha as probably my top choice in flies. A few years ago I was fishing Zapata, and after some unwillingness from the fish, my guide asked to see my fly box. He found a Ververka Mantis Shrimp crowded in amongst everything else and said "Put this on, and don't take it off." I didn't. Fish after fish ate it, and it has been my go-to Bonefish fly ever since.
Anyone going to Cuba will be recommended to have a selection of the Avalon Permit Fly in their arsenal. This fly was designed by Mauro Ginevri, the longtime manager of the Avalon fishing operation on Cayo Largo. Mauro wanted a fly that sank quickly and would orient itself hook up when presented and when stripped. Most effective on Cuba's Southern Coast, many many Permit have fallen victim to this shrimp imitation. Crab patterns seem more effective in destinations on the north coast such as Cayo Cruz, as well as the dark-bottomed shorelines of Zapata.
The Tarpon Toad is a very popular pattern, and seems to work just about everywhere. I was introduced to this color combination by Cristian Pablo Rodriguez, who owns and operates Fly Fishing the Run. We were pursuing Tarpon on the flats around Gardens of the King, and his fly was very quickly the hot color combination. Having Toads in a variety of colors is, of course, a wise idea. Black and Purple, Black and Red, Tan and Olive, and straight Chartreuse can all be effective combinations. That said, I have a tough time leaving the FFTR version in my fly box.