I’ll admit it. Cuba has found a special place in my heart. It is such an intriguing place. So unlike the rest of the Caribbean and Central America.
I just returned from our second trip to Cuba this year. This trip was very different than the first. Instead of staying on a big yacht, we were land based in the town of Playa Larga. Playa Larga is on the infamous Bay of Pigs and its history is proudly displayed around the town with memorialized tanks, statues, and propaganda praising “La Revolución”.
Though the resort wasn’t quite what we were expecting, the fishing was what we were there for. The original plan was to fish the river (Rio Hatiguanico) for two days for tarpon and then the flats of Las Salinas for 4 days. I fished the river the first day, and even though there were several tarpon around I opted to fish the flats for the rest of the trip.
The bonefish were numerous, and after landing one shy of twenty the first day on the flats I had had my fill. I told my guide Juan Carlos that I wanted to try for tarpon and permit as well and I had plenty of shots the rest of the days to target those species as well as others. The third and fourth days I had shots at permit in the mornings but with only one follow (which I spooked by stripping too fast). The afternoon tide wasn’t ideal for permit and so we pestered more bonefish before heading in. The fifth day we targeted tarpon in the outer channels, as well as snapper, jacks, and barracuda. The last day I was hoping to get another shot at permit.
The wind picked up early in the morning on that last day and I stood at attention on the front of the skiff for over 3 hours without a sign of anything other than a bonefish which after enthusiastic encouragement from Juan Carlos I casted to, hooked, and landed. This flat we had been on two days prior and I knew we were nearing the end of the flat and that’s when I saw the tails. I yelled “permit 12 o’clock” and sure enough there were four tailing permit about 100 yards away. Juan Carlos threw out the anchor and we tried to quickly wade to the fish in knee deep water. The fish ended up moving another 100 yards before we caught up to them and I could make a cast. The fish were about 50 feet away. Juan Carlos told me I had one cast and to make it count. With the wind still whipping, and my heart thumping, I started to false cast and immediately slapped the water on my front cast and back cast. “Jeez, get it together Blake!” I somehow was able to focus. Actually, I became laser-focused. And as soon as the front fish dipped down to the bottom and its tail came up I dropped the fly less than a foot from its head.
“Strip. Wait. Set!” That’s all Juan Carlos had to say. And I just did exactly as he told me. Knowing it was a solid hook set and as the line was dumping off the reel I looked up at Juan Carlos with a big grin. Even covered up with a buff, I could see in the corners of his eyes his smile. More than fifteen minutes later and over 100 yards of line retrieved back to the reel we landed the fish. It was the perfect way to end the trip, almost……it was only 11:30 and we still had plenty of time to fish. After slugging our way through the sand, mud, and coral back to the boat we had lunch and then ran to the mangroves in hopes of a tarpon. I assumed I had used up all my luck that morning and to find a tarpon would be a miracle. But to have 30 tarpon eat the fly that afternoon was just ridiculous.
So my second trip to Cuba and my second grand slam. Blessed? Fortunate? Lucky? Maybe a combination of all three.
Want to see more pictures from both trips and hear more stories? Join me Monday night May 2nd at the shop for a slideshow. I’ll also share about the two trips we are hosting to Cuba next year!