Cuba: How to Make a Good Trip Great by Paul Puckett
There's not much you can do on day one at about 9:30am when the clouds set in and cover the "Soony" as Rigo, our guide calls it. Rigo yells, "Come on Soony, but you look so beautiful in the morning??!!", as though it's worked at persuading the sky above in the past. Of course, you need to have plenty of hopeful thoughts parading through your head, that the weather is going to go your way at least 4 days out of the 6. If you've saltwater fished before, then you have gone through this process at least once...or ten times. It doesn't matter how far you have come or how much money you have spent, the best locales in the world still need some sun and a minimal amount of wind. Throw out your weather forecast, it truly doesn't mean a bag of beans...especially when you are in Cuba depending on your 6 Cuban guides and whatever weather info they are getting.
So, after day 1 and 2, it is apparent that the menu is offering crap weather the next 5 days with a side possibility of some sun the 6th day. What to do? "Did you guys bring your 500 grain full-sink lines and big heavy streamers?" Yep. So off we go for reefs and channels. Blind casting for Tarpon is of course fun, hell...you're still tarpon fishing; but without the sight-fishing aspect and the anticipation of an eat from the follow that is textbook Tarpon fishing, it actually makes it pretty hard. Casting, stripping x100, then the massive tug that you forgot may actually happen because you were daydreaming and repeating over and over Girls Just Wanna Have Fun in your head, you missed him. Ok, nope. That ain't gonna happen again! But it does. Again. And again. It's just hard. We did jump a few and landed one but after 2 days of it, we needed something new.
During lunch, all "buddy boated" up, the guides mentioned we could go trolling along the reefs...Ok, of course we are in, what the hell else are we going to? We set out like renegades, smirking as we pulled 100 feet of line with an arsenal of Pinfish flies, gurglers and big-ass poppers. These offerings brought up huge Barracuda, solid Bluerunners and even a nice Tarpon. We did the rock-bottom flyfishing thing, but it was fun as hell. Running 15 knots, dragging 100 foot of line and getting hits every 5 minutes while your buddies are all hooked up in sight of each other is a blast...sorry, but it is.
We got back around 2:30pm that day, about an hour and a half early. We decided, after a handful (read plenty) of adult beverages, that we were going to mess with one of the guys rods and reels in hopes that it would go over as a funny prank. Every night the guides park the boats about 300 yards away from the mothership on a leeward side of the bay we were in. Since "Dutch" was fishing all week by himself, he had his own guide and just kept his rods in the skiff. So the mission was going to require one of the guides to ferry us over to the skiffs in the inflatable dingy. I missed the operation but watched as they left, 5 deep in a 3-man dingy and waiting for just the slightest malfunction to abort the mission. The plan was to reverse just the line on the reel and to reverse the actual reel on the rod. The crew stripped off about 80 feet of line turned the reel around then strung it back up. So now his RH reel was LH retrieve and the reel had no drag as it stood.
We woke up, had our morning routine as we awaited takeoff for another day on the water. On the horizon, we see "Dutch" returning (he also leaves earlier, of course), and we all sort of grimaced and got nervous.
"How did he not figure out the issue in the water...did we screw his reel up?"
He came in blazing, "My reel's got nothing!! F&*%cking nothin!! What the hell!!!"
We looked at each other in fear as we immediately assumed someone reassembled the reel without some key components. Finally it clicked that if you pulled the line out with how we set it, it would have nothing as far as resistance.
Chance Yarborough went down and grabbed the reel in an effort to maybe "fix" it. Dutch was explaining that it's screwed as Chance was pulling off line, then turned the reel around on the seat. Chance reeled in the line and gave it back to Dutch and said, "Dutch, you've been had." A calming anger brewed on his face as he started laughing and screaming obscenities as it must have felt good as much as it was frustrating. He set back to the water as middle fingers arose. We got him. We got him good.
We had 6 fishing days in Cuba. I think everyone caught fish or at least jumped some Tarpon. We made the most of what we had and had a great time doing it. Nothing is ever going to be perfect because what's the fun in that!
Is it ever about the fishing really?