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“In order to write about life first you must live it.”

Updated: Mar 4

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”– Ernest Hemmingway


As a child I had access to salt water fishing. Growing up in New Jersey and having my Uncle Joe, who spent all his free time fishing on the Jersey Shore, was an influence on me. My family didn’t take a lot of “vacations” back in the 70’s so trips to the shore were almost always a summer time event. It was understood that when you stepped into my uncle’s boat it meant that we would be out all day. Some times we would just cruise around Barnegat Bay looking for schools of baby bluefish or fluke. I remember one amazing day near the lighthouse where we found huge schools of fish which kept us busy all day. Sometimes my uncle would take his boat out in the ocean and other times he would meet us by Sandy Hook. We would fish for anything that would take our hook, Stripers, Bluefish, Weakfish, Fluke, even baby sharks. I remember once even catching some kind of eel.


Once I started college out west, my access to salt water fishing was greatly reduced. My focus quickly shifted to trout fishing and later steelhead, along with other anadromous fish. It was also the case that once I moved to Montana, I would learn how to properly use a fly rod. The fly rod would become my preferred tool for catching fish. Not because it was cool or trendy, but because I was stubborn and determined. I couldn’t say how many countless times I’ve picked up a fly rod to go chase trout or steelhead, but I can literally count on both my hands the number of times I’ve been salt water fishing with a fly rod. On the surface you might think what is the difference? The truth is that there is very little crossover between using a fly rod for trout and salt water fish. There are of course, those bad habits like the quintessential “trout set,” pulling the hook out of the mouth of a salt water game fish, which every salt water guide will humiliate you if you don’t properly strip set on a fish.


I ran into a fishing buddy after a morning session below Hauser Dam. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile since he split his time bird hunting with his beautiful labs. Greg asked me if I was interested in a fishing trip to Cuba. I’d known that people (U.S. people) were now going there these days but I had no clue how one went about doing it or if it was at all difficult. Greg explained that one of the guys that went on the trip previously had suddenly died and a spot had just opened. Despite this morbid fact I was very intrigued. I said sure, and so he sent me the contact information of Jon Covich and instantly I was planning a trip to Cuba in January of 2024. I’d been trying to plan a couples trip with a bunch of friends and my wife to Belize for over a year. It turns out that getting everyone’s schedules in sync was more elusive then a permit on the flats, but suddenly this Cuba “thing” seemed so much easier and better.


I have to say, the thought of flying to Cuba in January from Montana sounds a lot more “Zen” then last summers continuously interrupted trip to the arctic. If you are an American, Cuba for the second half of the twentieth century has always been this “forbidden fruit” with mystery shrouded in ignorance. Thanks to Jon’s masterful planning this was one of the easiest trips to plan for and travel was a breeze (mostly). Apparently there are eight flights to Havana every day from either Miami or Houston. Jon, is well versed in Cuban travel. He has been traveling to Cuba for about a decade with multiple trips each year. He blends fishing and cultural “couples” trips so he really knows the places, the people and the culture. He made this trip ridiculously easy, enjoyable, and educational.


I was instantly hooked on Cuba, Havana, it’s people and culture. Cuban people are absolutely amazing and genuine. After an overnight in Havana and taking in the city, we got on a bus and travelled to the Bay of Pigs past miles of 1960 era billboards describing Cuba’s great ass kicking of it’s giant neighbor to the north. You can’t go anywhere in Cuba without reminders of Castro and the revolution. The highway to the Bay of Pigs has to be the pinnacle of this propaganda. At the Bay of Pigs we would board a “house boat” which would be our home for the next week.


The marine habitat near Cayo Largo is some of the best in the world. The flats go on forever, and the delicate eco system remains pristine. Avalon has amazing Cuban guides who are professional and simply some of the best in the world. They work tirelessly to find you fish. Still, if you want to easily catch bonefish, you need to be able to double haul a fly 60 feet to pinpoint accuracy and sometimes in windy conditions. That is the easy part, the guide does the hard part finding you the fish and positions you to make the best cast. We had a couple rough days of weather with overcast, rainy skies, windy conditions and a dirty sea, but towards the end of the week the weather got better, allowing us to target/catch tarpon and bonefish. We never got to get a shot on a permit as they were scarce on the flats with the rough weather.


On the second to last day, people on our boat started feeling sick, I thought nothing of it since the weather was finally cooperating and we were finally getting shots at fish. I would mindlessly jump on our skiff each morning for the day's adventure. On the return trip to Miami it hit me. I felt instantly sick. That night I didn’t sleep, I had a fever and my body ached. The next morning Greg and I screwed up our flight time and had to sprint to the airport and running through TSA to our gate in less than 40 minutes, Barely catching our flight home to Montana. I got home and collapsed in bed and tested positive for COVID. Six of the ten anglers got Covid including Jon. Fortunately it is 2024, thanks to science, this would just be a first-world inconvenience. I hope our crew and the guides were okay, but had this been four years earlier, the outcome might have been very different.

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