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HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
With U.S. commercial flights to Havana on the horizon, travel to Cuba will never have been easier. That doesn’t mean that Americans can simply purchase tourist visas. Your trip still must fall within 12 categories approved by the U.S. Treasury Department, and fishing isn’t one of them. But getting the required affidavit for travel is not difficult with a little creativity. Many tourists flout regulations, traveling by way of Canada or Mexico and relying on Cuban immigration officials to honor their requests to not have their passports stamped, so that upon return to the U.S., no one is the wiser. Our fishing trip in Ciénaga de Zapata Park, and our stays in Playa Larga and Havana, were arranged through Havana Unique (havanaunique.com).
HOW TO GEAR UP FOR CUBA
Don’t count on your outfitter having much gear. Here’s my checklist:
Bonefish: Temple Fork Outfitters BVK 9-foot 8-weight rod with a TFO Atoll I reel. Bonefish-taper floating line, 10-foot leaders with 15-pound-test tippet, and spare spools of 12- and 15-pound fluorocarbon. The best bonefish fly is the Squimp, a shrimp-squid pattern. Bring all sizes, along with small Gotchas and Crazy Charlies for ultraskinny water.
Tarpon & Permit: Temple Fork Outfitters BVK 9-foot 10-weight rod with a TFO Atoll III reel and tarpon-taper dry line. A deep-water express sinking line for the Río Hatiguanico. A selection of traditional tarpon leaders with 20-pound tippet and a spool of 60- or 80-pound fluorocarbon. Twelve-foot leaders with 20-pound tippet for permit. Enrico Puglisi Peanut Butter flies are your meal tickets for tarpon, in black-over-red and black-over-purple color combinations. Poppers can be effective in the river; other times you have to go deep. Crab patterns with various sink rates are needed for permit. The Avalon permit fly is very effective.
Extra Stuff: Expect hot weather. Bring a facemask and sun gloves. Angler’s pliers, sunscreen, and wading shoes are also essential.
Read McCafferty’s full Cuban flyfishing story, “Sons of Santiago.”