I've been a fisherman since the age of eight, and I am now almost fifty-nine. Fishing has been an essential part of life; I no longer have much hair, but scales have appeared where the hair used to be! However, despite a lifetime of fishing, this has consisted mainly of coarse fishing and, to a lesser extent, sea fishing. Fly fishing of any sort has not featured in my piscatorial life, and sea fly fishing only entered my thoughts when watching Rex Hunt on TV. Since then, it had always been in the back of my mind to try it, but never knew anybody who had a similar frame of mind with whom I could share the experience.
That was until 2008, when, in the course of business, I visited Mike Clark. On entering his smoke filled office, and making my way through the smog to where I assumed his desk to be, the first thing that caught my attention was the wallpaper photo on his laptop.The photo showed Mike cradling a huge brown trout, and in the background there were snow-capped mountains and dense forests. Being fairly intelligent, I immediately recognised that the trout was not caught from the local Hanningfield Reservoir, in Essex!! I was told that the trout came from a lake in Chile. Thoughts of business immediately disappeared and talk of fishing ensued.
Eventually we did get around to talking business, and I found that I had to return to Mike the following week in order to provide some information he had requested. On entering the office for the second time, the first words that left Mike's mouth were "Do you fancy joining us on a fishing trip?" "Where to?" asked I, "and what type of fishing?" "Cuba" was the reply, "and fly fishing is the preferred method, although you can use any method you like, including lures".
So it was, that in 2008, this novice fly fisherman first travelled to Cuba in pursuit of Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit and whatever else he could entice from the Caribbean! The plan that year was to go to Jardines de la Reina, however, Hurricane Paloma also decided to go there, so after a quick bit of soft shoe shuffle by Jack, the venue was altered to Cayo Largo.
It was great!! Plenty of fish, especially Bonefish, but also Snapper of various types. Hooked a Tarpon, but never landed it! That wasn't important; what was important was that I had found somewhere to fish that was virtually untouched. The environment was pristine, was silent, was vast, was warm, was blue, was green,.... was mine. I was so taken with the Cuba experience, that I had to do it again last year! This time we would attempt Jardines again, and without a hurricane in sight, left the little port of Jucaro on the good ship Halcon to spend the next week afloat on the Caribbean, in the mangrove paradise of Jardines de la Reina.My fly fishing, though less than impressive, does catch fish, and plenty of them! On this occasion, I did catch the elusive Tarpon. Not massive by Tarpon standards; the best I had was about 25lb, but on a fly rod and reel you know that you've got a fight on your hands!! In fact, I caught three Tarpon, and I was more than happy with that. I don't think I have ever hooked a more powerful fish. Beautiful fish, solid silver and with attitude. In addition to the muscle aching Tarpon there were the Bonefish, Snappers and a mini Permit. Now lads, it's often said that size doesn't matter, and when it came to this Permit, apparently it doesn't! Despite being only a small version of its' elders, that Permit, when coupled with the Tarpon and Bonefish, produces a Grand Slam!! Yes! I did the Slam!! On just my second attempt at sea fly fishing, and not yet being of a very high standard, I could apply for a certificate and membership of the Game Fishing Association!(or whatever it's called!).
Other fish were not in short supply either, and I managed any number of Barracuda on lures. Not massive 'Cuda; biggest probably around 15lb, but I was shaken to the boots when a shark rose from the depths to lunge at a hooked 'Cuda that was only a few feet from me! That shark was huge and would have gone into the hundreds of pounds! If I had hooked the fish, I would still be playing it! Thankfully, the lunge missed the 'Cuda, and despite a failed second attempt, the luckiest Barracuda in the Caribbean was able to be landed, and returned to the water unscathed!
But what of the accommodation? The Halcon was teriffic! A modern vessel with all mod cons. The cabin was of good size, and organised every day by Amarylis, the only female crew member. Food was of a high standard and presented in a very professional way. Not unreasonably, fish does feature largely on the menu, but not exclusively! After a few drinks and informative chat with other group members recalling their days' exploits, it's time for bed. The hard days' toil of fighting all those fish certainly worked like a sedative for me! I've never slept so well!
Up again in the morning, breakfast, and back into the skiff for another day in paradise. The guides are unbelievable. My eyesight is good, but they manage to see fish in water that looks totally devoid of anything! How they do it is beyond me, but they have years of experience behind them, and it certainly shows! I've learned many things on these trips, but probably the most important is to trust your guide; he knows what he is talking about!
And I look forward to keep learning and improving! I expect to be on the November trip this year. Can't wait! This type of fishing holday does not come cheap, but when was cheap, the best!?
Try it; you know you're worth it!
See you on board!
Reply from Sportquest Holidays
Barry, thanks for such a great report and feedback, it always helps us and customers to see real customers reviews. Plus remember that EVER permit counts so congratulations on your slam. Regards peter