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Return To Tortuga: Fly Fishing In Cuba’s Jardines De La Reina

Views: 369     Author: Linda     Publish Time: 2020-12-02      Origin: Site

Return To Tortuga: Fly Fishing In Cuba’s Jardines De La Reina

I have recently returned from another trip to Cuba. This time I was fly fishing in the crystal-clear waters of Jardines de la Reina – 250 square miles of mangroves off the southern shores of the mainland. It’s extremely remote – good because there are not many people fishing, but not so good because getting there entails a 4-hour boat trip (following 7 hours on a coach)! If the sea is calm, this is tolerable, but if it’s rough, it is somewhat of a nightmare.



This time the conditions were favourable, and seemingly before long our home for the week came into view – the floating hotel known as the Tortuga. In fact, this continued all week. The weather was just perfect for all six fishing days – sunny, warm and calm. Perfect. The return to the mainland, on the other hand, was a cross between very uncomfortable and mildly terrifying! (I was more than slightly relieved to get back onto the coach, not least because, had the conditions been like that all week, the fishing would have been an altogether different experience!)

As it was, however, we had a superb time, and caught some wonderful fish. Unusually there were only three of us fishing, plus three more guests who were diving. As a result we had our own rooms, and enjoyed V.I.P. treatment, with endless drinks and magnificent food from the extremely nice and very talented chef.


The Fishing

The three fishers shared two skiffs and two first class guides – Bemba and Juan Carlos – so we took turns at sharing and fishing alone. This worked out very well. I shared a boat with Chris on our first day, and we got on very well. He was a very pleasant chap and a lovely caster. We had fourteen or fifteen bonefish between us in the morning, plus a few “odds and sods”, which included a nice jack for Chris. In my angling career I have caught very many bonefish, but I must say that experiencing their power and electrifying speed once more still took my breath away. Catching them is such a thrill, and totally unimaginable by anybody who hasn’t had the good fortune to catch one.


At one of the spots where we stopped to fish there was a big barracuda. In no time at all it had eaten two of our hooked fish – one of them right at the edge of the skiff with a sudden and mighty splash! It was this fish that made my day. It made a lightning strike on one of my hooked bonefish before taking off for the horizon. I had never landed a barracuda on fly, and was expecting the inevitable bite-off, as usual. But my “Lucky Green” nickname held firm. Somehow the fly came out of the stricken bonefish and hooked the big fish, right in its scissors. Nevertheless, throughout the frantic, fifteen-minute battle that ensued, I expected at any moment those massive teeth would slice through my 14lb leader and be gone. Imagine my delight when eventually Juan Carlos managed to gaff my prize under its chin. He lifted it into the boat with an elated shout… from us both!


It's A Tough Life

The next day I was on my own with J.C. and once more the sport was non-stop. The action was split between bonefish, on the 7-weight rod, and casting a large lure at barracudas and jacks on the 10-weight, with a wire trace. I had another (much smaller) barracuda, and several nice jacks up to 18lbs. Also I caught my first ever kingfish. I really enjoyed the variation in the fishing. What’s more, at the end of the afternoon, we sped back to the Tortuga to be greeted by a smiling host with ice-cold flannel and equally cold mojito – the perfect drink for the occasion!


We travelled great distances between fishing spots. I know at one point we were about 40 miles from home base! Despite that, our excellent guides always found a nice shady place for our lunch break. Here we would meet and discuss the morning’s sport, tucking into the copious amounts of first class grub. We usually shared this with the local hutias and iguanas, which always seemed to be there, ready for their share!

Near Misses

The following day, I had two near-misses. First I came close to catching a grouper of about 15lbs. It took my fly on three consecutive casts, only to spit it out again before I was able to set the hook. Next I had a shot at a juvenile tarpon, which did much the same thing! Fortunately, my good friend Bill, who was kind enough to organise the trip, went one better. He boated his own small tarpon, after a spectacular aerial battle.

Juvenile tarpon in Cuba

The Food

The evening meals on the Tortuga were the best I can remember. We enjoyed lobsters and all manner of delicious fish dishes – including ceviche, consisting of thinly sliced jack fillets, lemon and herbs. It was to die for. In fact, after that our diving friends would ask us every day if we had caught any more jacks that day. Fortunately we generally had!


The Highlight

The highlight of this marvellous week came for me on the last morning. I was once more sharing with Chris, who fished first. He hooked a very large lemon shark, estimated by J.C. at about 200lbs, which charged off about 180 yards. Unfortunately it threw the hook, but it was very exciting while it lasted!

I then took over with my bonefish outfit, but was soon urged to change rods, as another nice lemon was heading straight for our skiff. Stripping line feverishly, I managed to land my fly 6 feet in front of it. Without hesitation it shot forward and engulfed my offering! It then took off for the horizon and there was little I could do to stop or even slow its progress. The distance between us was so great that I expressed doubt that I would ever get the beast back. Nevertheless, more down to luck than skill, some 20 minutes later it was circling the boat. By this time Chris was taking movies of the fight in the shallow, gin-clear water. Bill and Bemba had also come close by, having witnessed the battle from some distance away. In the end J.C. (rather bravely I thought) grabbed the fish’s dorsal fin, then tail, and heaved it on to the front of the skiff.

Celebration and cigar time!

Celebratory cigar

On the same trip I had caught my first ever barracuda, kingfish and shark on fly. I was on a total high. For the rest of that day I sat happily puffing and watching my boat-partner fish. There was simply no way of upping my enjoyment of the week.

So there we have it – a truly memorable week, which could hardly have been any better. Certainly it’s one I will never forget.

Bring on the next one!!!


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