There are many areas around the Caribbean that have bonefish, permit and tarpon. However one of the only places that has consistent numbers of good sized fish without the flats looking like a regatta is Cuba. It offers a huge variety of environments in which to catch each species and not to mention visiting a country that is caught in a time warp with its own unique character and beat. We have been selling fishing operations in Cuba since 2005 and in that time have learnt to side step many of the logistical issues that travelling here can sometimes occur. With so many different operations now in effect we thought some guidance might be helpful, especially with various new motherships coming online.

Cayo Cruz, Fly fishing Cuba, Avalon, Aardvark McLeod
Cayo Cruz, Fly fishing Cuba, Avalon, Aardvark McLeod

Jardines de la Reina

South Coast – Liveaboard

Named the Queen’s Gardens by Christopher Columbus, the Jardines de la Reina is a pristine chain of islands that run more than one hundred miles along Cuba’s south-eastern coast. This vast marine park, bigger in size than the Florida Keys, is ideal for fly anglers who wish to live and experience fishing from dawn till dusk aboard a series of purpose built liveaboard vessels.

The average sized bonefish is perhaps a solid 3 to 5lb, but there are opportunities for fish in the 7 to 10lb class every day. The huge variety of species available here is an added bonus with everything from mutton snapper on the flats to wahoo and giant Cubera snapper on the drop offs. The flats environment here is a fantastic combination of shallow turtle grass and deeper coral flats that are accessed by skiff, wade fishing is limited but possible at certain tide stages. Tarpon are prolific with many “baby” tarpon – fish in the 10 – 40lb class in the channels. During the spring season the average size of tarpon on the flats grows to 45-80lb with some specimens growing to 120-130lb in the deep ocean channel. Permit are also found in good numbers, and many of these fish will be in the 20 to 30lb class, with a few well over thirty. For anglers that land a permit, there is an excellent chance of completing a Grand Slam the same day. Tarpon can be found at just about any time and tide level as can bonefish. Over the years, there have been numerous Grand Slams caught by fly fishermen. Fishing hours are totally at the discretion of the clients, unlike many other lodges. The fishing day normally begins with breakfast at 0700 and departing for fishing from 0730 onward. Lunch can be taken on the skiff and is at the angler’s discretion. One of the main joys of fishing here is the sunset hour. Often it is calm, and schools of tailing and laid up bones can be seen hundreds of yards away, their golden tails glistening in the light of the falling sun. This is the time that most operations are heading back to the lodge so this magical witching hour is missed.

While you are in Jardines de la Reina, accommodations are provided aboard a series of purpose-built liveaboard vessels. There are seven boats in all; Jardines Avalon 1, 2, 3 & 4, Jardine Avalon F1 & F2, and Perola. Each of the boat offers a unique and comfortable experience.

Jardines de la Reina, Cuba Fly Fishing, Jardines Avalon IV, Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit

Cayo Largo

South Coast – Liveaboard

On the south west coast in the Canarreos Archipelago, Cayo Largo offers consistently good fishing with the highest number of grand slams anywhere in the Caribbean. Aside from the excellent bonefish and permit available There are tarpon ever present found primarily in the mangroves or reef ranging from 15lb to 30 lb. Traditionally the migratory tarpon arrive from April to August and tarpon over 100lb have been landed. Winding through the flats and cays are deeper channels that provide perfect areas for tarpon to feed on the bountiful shoals of sardines but when the tides are right they move onto the flats providing great sport. It’s a wonderful mixed species fishery with longstanding experienced guides.

While you are at Cayo Largo, accommodations are provided aboard Jardines Avalon 1. The boat offers a unique and comfortable experience.

Jardines Avalon 1, Cayo Largo, Fly fishing Cuba, Avalon, Aardvark McLeod

Gardens of the King (Cayo Santa Maria)

North Coast – Land Based

It is located on the north coast of Cuba at Jardines del Rey and UNESCO has declared this region a biosphere reserve. It is also referred to as Gardens of the King.

This stunning area of channels, mangroves and flats has world class tarpon fishing with fish from 10 lbs to 40 lbs present year round and migratory fish 80lb to 160lb showing up in great numbers from March onwards. Santa Maria is very much a tarpon fishery with other species available, but not the focus. For those looking to hunt the silver king then this is the spot you should focus on.

It is possible to target bonefish and permit, they are normally found on deeper flats which are fished for from the skiff rather than wading. Wading opportunities are very limited in this area.

Accommodation for fishermen is at the at the Iberostar Ensenachos resort which is very comfortable and perfect for non – fishers as well. The season runs from March to September with prime time April to July.

Cayo Santa Maria, Gardens of the King, GOK, Cuba tarpon, fly fishing tarpon, tarpon, Aardvark McLeod

Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud)

South Coast – Liveaboard

Isla de la Juventud, or the Isle of the Youth, in Cuba is the country’s second largest island and famed for fly fishing for giant tarpon. Sitting to the south of the mainland of Cuba it is a year-round fishery and focus on the huge chain of keys and islands that lead eastward. A wonderful array of pristine saltwater flats and deeper channels, a perfect place for tarpon of all sizes, big bonefish and good numbers of permit too.

The focus for most fly anglers heading to Isla de la Juventud is the year-round world-class tarpon fishing. The best tarpon fishing is often found in the spring and summer months but the fish are resident and can be caught in all months. They are often found in the deeper channels that run like a highway network between the flats, but fish of 30-80lb can regularly be sight cast to on the shallow flats. Stretching eastward, the large area of marine park provides a pristine environment similar to that of Jardines de la Reina with a combination of marl, sand, and turtle grass providing a perfect environment for fly fishing from a skiff. Aside from the numerous tarpon, these flats are also home to big bonefish and good numbers of permit too.

While you are in Isla de la Juventud, accommodations are provided aboard Jardines Avalon F1. The boat offers a unique and comfortable experience.

Isla de la Juvetud, Isle of Youth, Fly fishing Cuba, flats fishing, Avalon


South Coast – Liveaboard

The Canarreos Archipelago to the south of Cuba’s mainland comprises of 350 islets and is almost the same length as the Florida Keys. Within the archipelago sits two of the country’s best known destinations; the Isla de Juventud (Isle of Youth) and Cayo Largo. During the spring season these destinations are fish separately but from July to February each season one mothership will cover the full archipelago in what is one of the most exciting new operation in Cuba, Canarreos. It offers anglers the perfect combination of great fishing for bonefish and tarpon, along with tailing permit, cubera snapper and other flats species all from a comfortable liveaboard vessel.

The trip will be based upon the Jardines Avalon I, a 110 foot vessel which features ten air-conditioned cabins with private bathrooms. It is an intimate, comfortable and stylishly designed vessel. There is a spacious and comfortable combination lounge, dining room and bar area on the boat deck along with a jacuzzi.

Canarreos Archipelago, Cayo Largo, Cuba, Aardvark McLeod


South Coast – Liveaboard

Whilst the Zapata operation is for those who are happy to make some sacrifices to creature comforts it certainly makes no sacrifices to the quality of fishing on offer. This destination has been relatively unexplored due to a restriction on the use of boat engines in the area but now with a new set of skiffs the true potential of this southern Cuba area can be explored. It is a mixed species fishery and the fishable area includes large expanses of flats interspersed with lagoons and channels; perfect habitat for bonefish and permit. In addition the outer ocean fronted ring of islands and mangrove forests raise the potential for opportunities of not just large bonefish but also permit, snook and tarpon. The operation is based from motherships Georgiana and Perola, and during your week you will have three days on a single skiff included.

Zapata, mothership Georgiana, Cuba saltwater fishing, Cuba bonefishing, Aardvark McLeod

Cayo Romano

North Coast – Land Based

The flats at Cayo Romano/Cruz can be great and they are a hot spot for permit, bones with some tarpon. The guides there love fishing for permit for which it has quite a reputation. The open ocean is close to the flats so permit can comfortably move to deep water for rest and safety, but creep back to shallow water on the tide change. Often permit on the flats nearer the open ocean are in the company of rays making them more willing to eat the fly. There are also a lot back country areas that hold permit. The permit around Cayo Cruz are larger than average, most being in the 15-25lb range.

The flats are an inviting combination of hard packed white sand and a semi-firm mottled bottom that still provides good wading. It’s very similar to Los Roques, Venezuela in terms of the amount of area that’s wadable and there are places here where you can wade for four hours straight without heading back to the boat. There are great opportunities for casting at tailing fish. In terms of time of year March through July is considered as high season and the prime is probably April – June as that is when some of the migratory tarpon show up as well.

The operation underwent a massive upgrade in 2019 when accommodation moved from a rather dingy Cuban hotel with long drives to the fishing to a brand new “Lodge” within a new hotel system. Whilst it is located on a large hotel complex it is like a separate apartment system that they use so it has its own pool, bar and lounge area which is only 100m from the dock. Rooms are all newly renovated, ensuite bathrooms, air conditioning and WIFI.

Cayo Cruz Romano, Cuba, Aardvark McLeod

Cayo Paredon

North Coast – Land Based

Cayo Paredón is the newest land based destination on the north coast of Cuba located in the province of Camaguey. Camagüey is the easternmost, most significant and flattest province in the centre of Cuba. It has a few mountains and is flanked by the two most extensive archipelagos in the country. The operation is based from a tiny island of only 8.7km2 located in the middle of the Jardines del Rel (Gardens of the King) Archipelago. Some of its cays are larger than some countries of the world, and its untouched nature stands out, making it one of the most precious spots in the Cuban Caribbean. To the north, it’s surrounded by a coral wall of about 248 miles in length, the second largest barrier reef in the world, the first being the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The Paredón area is well known for fly fishing, being on many angler’s radar for decades. Since Paredón is inside the Jardines del Rey Marine Park, like all our operations in Cuba, it will be under Marine Park Management with the help of Blue Sanctuary Organisation. Hard bottomed flats bordering deep blue channels allow for great wading opportunities for bonefish, permit and tarpon, among other species. The bonefish are numerous and large. There is also a good population of permit that cruise the same flats but in the deeper water.

Anglers will be based in a newly built all-inclusive resort on Paredón. This will offer excellent comfort and great access to the flats each day with the dock just a short journey away from the accommodation.

Zapata, mothership Georgiana, Cuba saltwater fishing, Cuba bonefishing, Aardvark McLeod

Unlike the Florida Keys all these huge protected areas are only fished by the operations based there and, as a result, there is less pressure on the fisheries. If travelling with non-fishers, Cayo Romano, Cayo Paredon and Gardens of the King (Cayo Santa Maria) have suitable accommodation and those of you with diving partners, Jardines de la Reina offers fantastic diving. Virgin, Iberia and Air France all have flights to Havana that work with the fishing schedules and although visas are required, we are able to issue them for you.

If you would like more information please contact Peter McLeod or Alex Jardine or call us on ++44 1980 847389. Alternatively click HERE if you would like us to contact you.