To say the very least, my visit to Cuba to view the services of Fly Fishing the Run was fantastic, amazing and very educational. One of the first things that I learned was that it is now possible to fly directly from Miami to Havana. I had made my reservations early in the spring and at that time, it was necessary for me to go to Miami-Grand Cayman Island-Havana. The air travel market offering direct flights to Cuba from various US locations is changing very quickly. I must say that, the G/Cayman leg notwithstanding, my entire travel experience was seamless. I was met at the airport for a “meet & greet” by FFTR’s representative, taken to the Capri Hotel, which overlooks the ocean, old Havana and parts of downtown Havana. The hotel was very new, and accommodations and the restaurant were excellent. I want to be sure that we emphasize that I walked anywhere in the area of the hotel that I chose and felt completely safe. I took pictures, was greeted several times by the locals and never had any reason for concern. The Cuban people are delightful, happy people who are pleased to see more and more Americans frequenting their country.
The shuttle ride from the hotel in downtown Havana to the remote location where we were met by the guides, to take us to the Yacht that was our floating hotel, gave a good look at day to day life in Cuba. Roadside stands offering food, Cuban crafts, beverages were very interesting. It also drove home the point that many of the Cuban people are quite poor and the ability to eke out a living is a daily struggle. But……they are happy, gregarious and always made us feel welcome.
Our lodging was a 100 foot+ refurbished yacht, named the Georgiana. Many of FFTRs destinations involve staying on one of these reconditioned boats. Staterooms easily accommodate 2 guests and each room offers a private bath and shower. Food on the boat was naturally enough, of Cuban cuisine and was fabulous! Three entrees with each meal, rice, vegetables, and fresh fruit, mango, papaya and pineapple were served with every meal. Entrees were fresh fish, lobster tails(all caught that day!) chicken, pork or beef. The top deck of the boat is all open but covered with a top in the event of rain. We were able to enjoy meals with a sea breeze cooling us and the open ocean around us. All in all the entire boat experience was superb and left nothing lacking. The area where the boat was located was in a huge National preserve called Zapata, where commercial fishing (other than lobsters) is not permitted.
Now to the news that everybody wants to hear about, the fishing: We fished from flats skiffs, typically with a guide for each 2 fishermen. These are great boats to fish from and offered a wide casting deck in the bow with plenty of room. Our principal targets were tarpon, bonefish and permit. Late July is one of the hottest times of the entire year, and warm ocean water (water temperatures were in the low nineties daily!) has a tendency to move the fish off the flats into slightly deeper water. Most of the fishing is sight-casting, which is perhaps the ultimate fly-fisherman’s dream. However, despite the warm water, we had an abundance of fish around us and plenty of opportunities for shots at cruising fish of all three species.
The guides are amazingly proficient at spotting fish! They also are very descriptive in saying, “bonefish, ten o’clock, 20 meters.” I was fortunate to catch the largest bonefish of the week, a spectacular trophy weighing ten pounds or a bit over, caught on the very first day. The ultimate goal of many fishermen who come here is the proverbial “Grand Slam.” This is done by catching a tarpon, bonefish and permit, all in the same day. Two of us in the group had a chance at the Grand Slam and in both cases, the permit was the problem. Permit are notoriously tough to catch and are often spooked by the motion of a fly rod! My chance came of the last day and despite 5 or 6 legitimate shots at permit, they outfoxed me again!
We could go on endlessly about what a spectacular adventure my entire Cuban experience was! Here is perhaps my best explanation in a nutshell; Cuba is affordable, safe, and offers a cultural as well as a magnificent fishing experience. Extending your stay by spending a few days in Havana is very doable. Lila and I will have an informational package put together in the next few days, and will be sending it to those who have expressed interest previously. If you’d like information or simply have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. 2016 is already sold out, but we are taking reservations for 2017, at any of several of FFTR’s locations.
We will be sharing much more information about this spectacular fishing destination in the weeks and months to come.