I have been fortunate enough to take two trips to Cuba this year, one to Cayo Largo with a group of 12 anglers and more recently a trip to Jardines De La Reina or “the gardens of the queen.”
Both trips were excellent and are highly recommended for the angler looking for a unique saltwater fly fishing experience. Both locations are owned/managed by Avalon the primary operator of fishing and diving for the country of Cuba.
I have written about Cayo Largo before so I won’t go into to much detail on Cayo Largo in this post.
Suffice to say that Cayo Largo is a wonderful fishing program with chances for tarpon, bonefish and permit. We had a great group of folks, many from Eugene and Missoula and even an Aussie thrown into the mix.
My most recent trip I was accompanied by our very own Peter Cadigan “the most polite man in the fly fishing industry.” Peter and I traveled to Cuba this year through the Cayman Islands on a “cultural exchange visa” via Avalon and The Ocean Foundation.
The trip was completely legal and when Peter presented his documents to the customs officers they were more interested in his trip report than his visa number. The rest of our group had zero questions regarding there trip when returning through Miami.
From Grand Cayman we arrived in Havana where we spent a short night, just long enough to realize that my luggage would not be with me for the next week. Brutal! Fortunately I had packed my reels and one change of clothing in my carry on. I had carried my rods most of the way and they had arrived.
I was without flies, leaders and more than one clean shirt. Early a.m. from Havana we drove 6 hours across the fertile Cuban countryside to Jucaro where we hopped a boat headed to the floating hotel called Tortuga.
Tortuga is located 48 miles to the southeast of Jucaro in the Jardines De La Reina. Our boat ride was reasonably comfortable but abnormally long, 5 hours long, apparently the fast boat (3 hours) was not available although we did get it on the way home.
Weary but exited we quickly rigged our gear and hopped in the dolphin skiffs Avalon uses to fish the Jardines De La Reina and in it’s other operations. Peter and I in a boat, Andy from Chicago Fly Shop in a boat and Karl and Emilee from the Urban angler in New York in another.
It was dead still and we immediately found bonefish. Of course I had neglected to wear long pants, hat, or a long sleeve shirt, the welts are still present a week later from the white winged “no see-ums” that bit all exposed flesh.
The next five days were spent chasing bonefish, tarpon and permit. The weather was incredibly hot 90 plus degrees, high humidity and little wind. Most afternoon/evenings included a wicked thunderstorm often producing high winds and booming thunder and lightening.
Our accommodations were more than adequate given the location and ease in which business is done in Cuba. The Tortuga is a floating hotel with 8-9 rooms, each with 2-4 beds. Rooms have showers, toilets and enough room to be comfortable.
Honestly you spend so little time in your room the fact that the toilet and shower are a bit close together is not a big deal and is very much expected on a fishing hotel/boat. We were joined by 5 divers enjoying the fantastic diving on the reef that runs alongside Jardines De La Reina.
The boats manager(s) took us great care of us. The food was outstanding with lobster and sashimi served 4 of the 6 dinners we had.
As part of all of the Avalon fishing packages we stayed in Havana for two nights. Havana is a fascinating city and it’s easy to spend every moment you have exploring the sites, sounds and smells of the city.
I highly recommend the trip to Jardines De La Reina. While traveling to the Tortuga is a bit more involved that some of the other destinations in Cuba it is truly a remote and untouched area for saltwater fly fishing.
If Cuba is on your list we are hosting trips to Cayo Largo, Jardines De La Reina and Cayo Cruz in the coming 2015-2017 seasons. Feel free to contact me with more detailed information about dates, costs and travel.
By Chris Daughters, Oregon Fly Fishing Blog
September 9, 2014