Friday, November 28, 2014

Puros, ron y macabi...

The flight from Baracoa to Havana went smoothly. I was expected at the airport due to the impeccable organization of  Fly Fishing Dreams / Castaway and went with a cab to Playa Larga. I knew very well the road between Havana and Las Salinas cause of a previous visit two years ago. Playa Larga didn’t change much since my last visit so I felt kind of at home. I had a short meeting with the guide in the afternoon, then I enjoyed the sunset with a cigar on the terrace of casa Rivas (my home in Playa Larga for 3 days).

Next day, after a hearty breakfast, we went early in the morning to the lagoons of Las Salinas. On the way to our destination I had the opportunity to see colonies of flamingos, pelicans, egrets and some endemic birds in Cuba. Fishing took place from a small boat without out border. Las Salinas water depth varies between 20 cm and 1.5 meters.

During the first day there were several small obstacles, first of them being the weather. Rain, wind and the overcast sky made spotting fish and casting a little bit difficult. After several hours of searching I managed to identify about 17-20 meters from the boat the silhouette of a solitary bonefish. With mild emotions not to spook the fish, I cast a rubber legged gotcha on a hook no. 6 about 2-2.5 meters in front of the fish, then I started to strip the line with average speed. At about 10 meters from the boat I felt the tension in the line and after strip-strike within a few seconds the fish took the entire line and about 30 meters of backing. The spurt of adrenaline made me scream of happiness. My only thought in this situation was to land the fish. After another two runs, I managed to get the fish near the boat, a splendid bonefish around 4 lbs. After a few pictures, the fish was released.

After another 2 hours of searching fish in vain, my guide told me that maybe we should look for the bones in shallow mangrove water. Mangroves loomed over 150 meters when my guide M told me:

-     Mira, tailing fish! A lo lejos, cerca del manglar ! (Look, tailing fish! Far away, near the mangrove !)

I managed to recognise the fish only after we got near to their playing ground. With the same emotions as the first time, I cast the fly in front of a fish and waited till the fly reached the bottom after I started to strip the line without losing the fish tails from my sight. The fish followed and took the bait, then I felt the same stop like the first time. Like a rocket the fish went deep into my backing. The guide was looking at me with a smile that made his white teeth shine and whispered:

-         Gran macabi. Ahora lo llevan ! (Big bonefish. Now bring it out!)

I adjusted the reel brake to prevent a run of the fish into the mangroves and after a few minutes and a few shorter runs, the fish began to show signs of fatigue. It was slightly larger than the first one, somewhere around 5 lbs.. After there followed some fish between 3-4 lbs. we decided to end the fishing day.

The day turned out to be much better than expected, sun, clear skies and little wind (at least in the first half of the day). This time we headed from the beginning to the mangroves. Fish proved to be somewhat cautious. I changed the leader and I went on smaller flies (crazy Charlie and spawning shrimp) on hooks no. 8. Not to scare the fish I preferred to cast a few meters in front of them (sometimes 5-6 meters) and then wait until they reached the fly after I started to strip the line. 

After a few fish, M told me smiling:

-      Vamos a hacer un poco mas dificil! Que piensas? Vamos a pescado en el medio de los manglares! (Let’s make things a little bit more complicated! What do you think? Let’s fish between the mangroves!)

Without knowing exactly what to expect I answered with an OK! After I changed the 10 lbs. with a 12 lbs. leader and adjusted the reel brake to the limit of tippet resistance we headed for the new playground, much smaller and dotted with small mangrove trees and all kinds of water plants. I began to realize that the next test would become a difficult one and I was worried cause of the rod and line. Suddenly I hear M saying:

-         Macabi 12 o’clock, 10 metros! Lanzar! (Bonefish 12 o’clock, 10 meters! Cast!)    
There was  a small barrier of mangroves till to the fish. I asked a little bit unsure:

-         Estas seguro? (You sure?)

Ms firm response followed:

-         Ahora lanzar! (Cast immediately!)

I cast over the grass in front of the fish, started to strip the line in small steps, the fish took the fly and strip-strike followed. Like a fireball, my bonefish made his way trough the bushes. The rod bent like a bow, reel brake was moaning jerky and I started to lose my hope to see the fish in the boat. With great dexterity M maneuvered the boat among the mangroves and I managed to get my line back meter by meter. After another few minutes, sweaty I was holding the fish in my hand. What an experience, I thought. My guide was looking at me smiling then he asked me:

-         Te gusta? El macabi es una locura, pero estoy mas loco! (Do you like it? Bonefish is crazy but I am even more crazy!)

Till I was able to reply, I already heard him saying:

-         OK, una vez mas! (OK, one more time!)          

There followed more nice fish but i also lost some. At the end of the day I had13 hooked fish and managed to get 10 out of the water.

For the third day we decided to fish in the Rio Hatiguanico for tarpon and snook. Although Ms recommendation was another day in Las Salinas, maybe to catch a large barracuda or a lemon shark, I wanted very much to see this amazing river. Fishing in the river is less spectacular comparing to the flats. Blind casting on the mangroves lip with sinking lines can be dull but I hoped for a fish. Although we didn’t caught anything on this day, I had the opportunity to admire the local flora and fauna, including several families of manatees (Trichechus Manatus).

Next day in the plane on my way to Baracoa, I was thinking about my time in Playa Larga/Las Salinas and felt asleep dreaming of big exotic fish.
Salt leads to addiction!