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Planning for Silver Under the Cuban Sun
Last edited on: Apr 21, 2014 08:40:09 PM by Kevin

This story would not be complete without all the preamble that goes with such an adventure. I am talking about the behind the scene/pre-planning activities rather than the excitement of the moment with line screaming and the euphoric angler beaming from ear to ear.

We do end up getting to the line screaming and giddy angler screaming with excitement and of course the typical cluster “mistakes” of the moment as well as the classic great photographic or video moments.


March 2014 will go down in my history book in the category of a trip of a lifetime. I had the pleasure of fishing with my buddy Chris again. Our last trip was to Belize in 2009 and we had no end of fishing fun as well as some practice in what to bring fishing. No trip will be successful without all of the pre-planning before the start. In fact I tend to think of all the planning as the fun start to any fishing adventure.

Just the collecting, checking and packing of all the gear in itself is not only exciting but it can also be intimidating especially for your first time to any destination. A first time trip for many is often the last time trip as either cost of travel or interest in seeing different destinations means you are not coming back. Therefore you need to come prepared for pretty much anything from missing gear, lost gear, broken gear, illness and injury. Bringing stomach trouble medication means you can leave the foreign porcelain office throne and go fishing in the morning.

Traveling all the way to a foreign country with very little for consumer goods to buy would also mean you bring what you need or else. Alternative some places may sell sport fishing supplies but you are at the mercy of the merchant to pay whatever they ask. No angler wants to get to the flats or river and go…ops “ARGGGG… I forgot a rod or reel or important clothing and sunscreen for sure”. Another way to put it is a bad day fishing is hooking yourself in the hand whereas a terrible days fishing is when you forgot to bring the hooks! While it could make for an interesting story about how you got burned on the first day and was hospitalized, the pain and loss of fishing time would be an angling tragedy. Going out into the sun in the tropics for even a half hour can yield painful burns which may even require a hospital visit. Even getting your passport is an epic fishing adventure travel fail because nothing gives a traveler that stomach sinking feeling like not finding your passport when asked at airline ticketing counter.

Clothing Not Optional

Equally important in remembering to pack outside of fishing gear is your fishing clothing for both safety and comfort. Sure without the hardware gear you can’t fish but often in a pinch you can borrow some. Clothing is harder to fit and critical for safety to prevent sunburns in tropical destinations and hypothermia in cold destinations. When traveling north an essential bit of clothing is bug clothing made with fine mesh. Bush fever needs to be experienced to be believed but when a literal cloud of biting flies, mosquitoes, small biting flies and horseflies attack, the human flight or fight response kicks in and people tend to chose run. You run into the forest, get disorientated, hurt, lost and can die. Tropical destinations usually just have to tend with Sun exposure and sometimes with transmitted diseases from insects such as malaria. For all sun and insect problems sunscreen and deet bug repellant can help, but the best defense can be clothing. Some people have nasty reactions to repellent when applied over sunscreen as sunscreen is designed to be absorbed into the outer layers of the skin to create a sun block.

Sunglasses can be the difference between catching fish or not catching fish especially on the flats. Bonefish and other species are extremely hard to see with the surface glare. Polarized lenses gives you a big edge to even spot the pockets of agitated water that should flash like a neon sign "fish under here, fish under here!". I use fit over style glasses that work very well to cut down glare and out on the water nobody makes eye surgery jokes.

When traveling to the tropics I always take with me a couple pairs of wading pants, long sleeve breathable fishing shirts, a buff to protect my head and neck and a hat with a neck shield for added protection. I have people at work telling me a look goofy and equally thinking I am goofy for coming back from the tropics with less of a tan than when I left. The fact is the professional guides almost all wear the same clothing including sun gloves which I also picked up this year.

Fishing sun gloves should function as stripping gloves as well as sun protection. Depending upon the type of fishing you are doing in the tropics, a pair of comfortable shoes is a must. Whether standing on the boat casting or wading in the water you need to come up with the best footwear to stay comfortable for the task at hand. Options are cheap sneakers or specially designed flats boots. Socks are also important the sharp fine grained coral sand away from water logged skin.

You could also bring some swim trunks to fish in. Depending upon how bad you burn and how often you put sunscreen on you may be fine to fish in shorts. You should be aware however that in some places there are swimming critters that bite exposed skin and leave a painful nasty mark. Ask your guide before you start and have your extra optional clothing in a water proof bag at the ready. Still nothing beats the occasional dip in the ocean during a warm fishing day.

Fishing Gear Heads

Some fishing trips feel simple and easy to prepare for while others seem more complicated with lots of different gear. It seems the more gear one collects the more ancillary gear one desires. I would also say the tendency is to fall prey to compulsion and excitement and buy more and more gear you are unfamiliar with. This is not necessarily a bad thing since as mentioned before you don’t want to travel thousands and thousands of miles away and get out on the water and realize you forgot something important to make you trip a success. I also look at the gear as an investment versus a consumable. Some fly tying materials are consumables versus clothing and gear are investments in future trips. Take care to shop wisely since the quality and design of equipment has changed dramatically over the years and there are $200 - $300 rods that do just a good a job catching fish as $800-$1500 rods. Reels have also come down in price as the Chinese have perfected bar stock aluminum computerized machining equipment. Local fishing shops as well as the tour organizer or outfitter as well as other anglers can help you with planning suggestions.

For this trip I collected a number of rods and reels. My two tried and tested Sage XI2 eight weights and my ten weight with matching Islander reels were coming once again. I also just picked up a 7, 9 and 11 weight Sage XI3 but out of all these only my 11 weight was making this journey to Cuba. I had previously acquired a Billy Pate Marlin reel and decided to pair that up with my 11 weight. At the last minute I even picked up a full sinking line for the 11 weight which in hindsight was a very smart move. Matching the gear to the species is critical as well as matching to the fishing conditions. These bonefish range between 16 and 22 inches in length and can average about 18 inches. Some larger bones can also be found in the area. Bonefish can swim at high burst speeds from 20 to 40 mph or 32 to 65 kph and even so at first glance a six weight rod and reel should be plenty of backbone to fight a bonefish on the open flats. Even with some sharp mangrove roots sticking up the rod and reel are not primarily sized for the fish. Using an eight weight rod serves two purposes. Firstly it helps punch through the tropical trade winds that almost always blow and secondly you can cast to permit and jacks whereby the extra backbone is very useful.

Tying flies gets me super pumped for a trip like this since catching fish on a fly tied by my own hand adds to the sense of accomplishment. There is a great sense of pride and fulfillment that comes with making something that can fool a fish into striking. To this end I must admit I became a bit more than a fanatic. I would get home from work and tromp down to my fly tying bench and start tying. I made an excessive number of bonefish and tarpon flies and as excessive compulsive fly tying creative juices started to flow I was drawn to the local fly fishing store like a moth to a flame to find that perfect feather, fur and synthetic combination that would surely drive the fish crazy!

This is my favorite bonefish fly of the trip

My last effort was expended to ensure all my camera equipment was collected and stored in my carry-on bag as well as my passport. Be sure to check your expiry date of your passport as many countries will prohibit entry if your passport expires within 6 months or less.

Finally the day of my departure arrived and I was off to the airport. I am always worried about losing my fishing gear to the airport. What is the difference between a clothes dryer and an airport? You can’t prove your socks traveled to Africa in your dryer. Yes… on the way back from fishing trip to Belize my luggage apparently decided to go from Houston to Africa for a visit instead of to Calgary. On the way down my fishing partners gear also left on an adventure. On this trip to Cuba I was relaxed knowing that Westjet allowed my fishing gear on the plane and at the very least I could fish.

So here is a quick check list to get you started on your adventure:


__ Buff
__ Fishing Gloves
__ Long sleeve shirts
__ Wading pants
__ Wading boots
__ Wading socks
__ Fishing hat (preferably with sun neck protection)
__ Swim trunks
__ Shorts
__ Casual pants (for dinner if outside the mosquitoes can be bad)
__ Undergarments

Razor (whiskers are a pain under a buff)
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Other assorted toiletries
__ Toilet Paper (depends upon the destination…third world country, Cuba etc. bring zip lock bags for packing a roll fishing each day)
__ Sunscreen (SPF 60) You don’t want to get burned… at all.
__ Medications with prescription name as required clearly attached.

Fishing gear
2 Eight weight fly rods and reels and tropical bonefish lines with loop to loop connection
1 Ten weight fly rod and reel with permit tarpon line with loop to loop connection and 3 full sink weighted heads for tarpon fishing.
1 Eleven weight fly rod and reel with tropical tarpon full sinking line with loop to loop connection
Wire leader with special tarpon leaders made up
12 weight bonefish tippet
60 and 80 lb tarpon tippet
Line clipper
Polarized sunglasses. Gray for deep sea or offshore. Amber for flats and the river. An extra pair is a must to protect your eyes.
Flies for bonefish (hooks must be saltwater hooks to prevent corrosion)
Flies for permit
Flies for tarpon
Flies for jacks
Flies for barracuda
Strong fly boxes that won't warp in the tropic heat
Water proof bag
Waterproof rod case

Camera with spare battery and charger and memory card
Camcorder with spare battery and charger and memory card
Spare memory cards
Lens cleaner
Underwater camera
Camera accessory gear


Sufficient money in the right currency to convert to local currency for purchases and tips.
Phone (make sure you purchased a proper roaming package)

Now just make sure you wake up in time to get to the airport!
Next stop…VARADERO!

Kevin Egan is an avid angler who never turns down a fishing experience. Life is too short not to fish, learn, experience adventure!

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