For this time we were planning to be in Punta del Este area, which is the southeast side of Gardens of the Queen.
Gardens of the Queen is about 80 miles long and 10 miles wide, so it is a huge territory for water with amazing colours like green, violet, pink, blue and white. Everytime you move through the flat, the scenery changes, every time the sun comes up to the sky, the colours of this places change and make this place a paradise.
After all these years of going to Cuba for fly fishing, this was a special occasionbecause my friend from Houston, Rell Tipton, decided to join me and so we went there fly fishing together.
I’ve met Rell many years ago when his son was 13 years old, and it has always been a pleasure for me to be in touch with him and hunt with him through the years, but this time is unique for us because is our first time fly fishing together.
His son Parker has visited us in Argentina and stayed there for an internship and hosting at our lodges. Park is a professional Fly Fishing guide. He spends his time in Colorado, Argentina. He is a great kid, 24 years old, so we hope to continue doing many things together through the years.
Now, coming back to Cuba, we decided to go to Gardens of the Queen and our goal was to try to go for the big Tarpon – 60 to 100 pounds Tarpon-. This is something that does not happen all year round. The transition happens from late April to June or even late June. So, because of our latest request to go fishing we ended up finding a beautiful spot in Hooker.
Hooker is a small village where most of the boats for fly fishing depart on friday and leave for an entire week.
For this occasion, we brought some Sage rods, number 12 sold model for big tarpon. Sage reels, Sage rods, everything was ready. We also brought number 10 rods for some Permit and number 8 to fly fish Bonefish. I would always recommend to have three different types of rods, because sometimes we are searching for Bonefish and we see a Tarpon, or we are looking for permit and we see a Bonefish. So you should always be ready.
We knew we would meet our friends from Scotland, Ian and Mark, two great guys that were on a different boat. We had to join them to share this amazing experience with a bunch of friends from North America and two other guys from Germany.
So, six days and six nights for fly fishing in the middle of nowhere at Gardens of the Queen.
We are two blocks away from La Floridita, and about six or seven blocks from La Bodeguita Del Medio, two very famous places in which you can go and drink and smoke great cigars. In those places there’s live music every day and night, there’s a lot of people going there to grab a beer. There are, of course, some other places like Agua de Oro, which is very nice and, apart from tourists, you can see many local people going to that place too, to drink some mojitos, ron and ice-cold beers too.
The logistics to get to Hooker Apart was not as easy as we thought it would be. They picked us up very early in the morning and then drove us from Havana to Hooker, which was like a five hours drive, and then we had to take a boat to get to Gardens of the Queen. Somehow, that is what makes this place so special, because, once you get there, you really feel like you are in a completely different world.
This time, we were very lucky. It was a great week because all of the best guides were there, and I had the chance to fly fish with Bemba, who is a great guy that has been for more than fifteen years fly fishing in Cuba as a guide. Bemba did an extremely good job taking me and Rell to where the fish was. We’ve been searching the waters a lot for a big Tarpon, and we tried out different things. We went Fly Fishing in Punta del Este, a place in which you have to be very patience because, what you have to do is that you have to hold the boat with an anchor and wait till you see the big fish coming, and when that happens, you have to be ready because you will only have one or two chances, and if you screw that up, you are not going to be lucky again. We would say that probably 50 or 60 percent of our flycast was short or too long and we were not lucky.
Lets talk about the good ones, the cast that was followed by the Tarpon. In my case, I had an amazing day in Punta del Este, because three different Tarpons, big Tarpons, came to my fly, followed my fly, and I remember I lost the first one because, when I wanted to catch him, he was not able to get the fly in his mouth, but the other two were not good enough.That happened in between an hour and can’t tell you how frustrated I was, but then, my friend Rell, was at the top of the boat and he was able to catch a beautiful Tarpon of probably 60 pounds, and I say probably because something unique happened. He was fighting with this animal, we saw him jumping, but then, the fish got closer to the boat and while he was trying to catch him, my friend put the line inside it. We fought with that fish but we couldn’t take the picture we needed as a memory of that great moment.
It was amazing. Rell is a great person to go fishing with. He lets you fish alone , he gives you space so you can fish and be amazing at it, so, when you meet someone like Rell and you are with him on the water, is incredible. I wish I could do this many more times.
To get to Cuba nowadays is becoming easier. There are many flights from Florida, through Mexico, and also some flights straight from Houston. Going from Argentina is easy; I took a flight from Cordoba to Panama and then to Habana.I met Rell in Habana on a friday afternoon. We both stayed at Parque Central Hotel, which is a very great option because is located just on the Habana Vieja part where Obispo street is, place in which you have most of the restaurants, bars and music is.
This time, before leaving to Cuba, I decided to take very light pants because in July, Cuba is hot and quite wet. So I took some Patagonia light pants and Asilta pants, too.Asilta is an Argentinean brand that has been growing a lot and has also a great potential. This company makes amazing clothing and I personally think they should be on the hands of somebody that want to do some business with this type of companies.
I’ve also tried a blue shirt from Ansilta that worked really good. It was very light and fresh and, of course, comfortable, as well as some blue and grey long sleeve t-shirts from Patagonia.
So, now, let me tell you about another amazing experience;the second day.
On this day, Bemba told us about a blue hole inside the ocean that was a little far away from the coast. So we did like fifteen or twenty minutes on boat until we got to this place in which the colour of the water was different and Bemba told us that there was a huge rock on that place and that the fish was around that rock, so, to fly fish on that place was quite tricky and different so we had to do a long long cast with a sinking line and let it sink for about three or four minutes so the line would have time to go deeply inside the ocean.
I did that a couple of times, but then, I was surprised that I was hooked by a sixty pounds Tarpon that fought us like crazy for twenty minutes- I can say that he jumped out of the water like fifteen or sixteen times- and there was a moment when I decided to put a little bit +of extra pressure to the lines so it would be time to bring him to the boat,a dn so that little pressure on one of the fish’s jumps made me lose my fly and my Tarpon. The feeling of disappointment was really strong. It took me like half of hour to recover from that episode. So, in order to do that, I told Rell to go to the front of the boat to fly fish while I was grabbing a beer and trying to calm down a bit. In the other hand, I must admit that it was an amazing feeling to be fighting with that incredible animal. It was a challenge that I’m willing to face again soon.
Another thing about Cuba is that it always depends on what would you like to do. There are areas for everything and just that. You can fly fish in Gardens of the Queen on a luxurious boat, or you can stay in La Patana, which is a boat that is kind of parked in the middle of nowhere, or even stay in smaller boats. I would recommend you to check with us the kind of fishing trip you would like to have so we can give advise on the likes or dislikes that you may have.
Talking about flies, there’s not much to say about that. I guess that in every single fly shop in North America, as well as in Latin America, if you go and say that you are going fly fishing to Cuba, they will know what are you talking about and they will help you the best way possible. Just in case, I would recommend you to use the Avalon flythat works amazingly for Permit.
Another thing I would recommend everyone to do before going to fly fish to Cuba is to double check the gear and equipment information so you bring all the necessary stuff like sunscreen, gloves, hats, buffs, sunglasses, comfortable shoes, everything!
Going back to the fishing, I want to mention that we also had Coqui with us that week. He is one of the beginners on that company, but he is well known for being one of the best Permit guides on the southern part of Cuba. He is a great guy, talented and polite, and I think every person that loves doing Permit Fishing should meet Coqui for sure.
So this weeks we fished a lot of Tarpons, baby and big ones, and also a couple of bonefish just to change some days because the Tarpon fishing was kind of slow and I think it was because the weather and the moon were playing against us and so probably that affected a little bit our fishing days.
Great days with great people made this trip to be another amazing fly fishing adventure in Cuba.
Stay tuned for the next incredible adventures we have ahead!