Our group of 16, 12 anglers 3 children and one non-angler recently traveled to the small Island of Cayo Largo. You may remember last year’s adventure being interrupted by tropical depression “Debbie”. Well, this year’s weather was about as good as one can expect on a six-day saltwater fly fishing trip. All twelve anglers caught a variety of fish on the trip and three were able to accomplish “Grand Slams” catching a Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon on the same day. We have already scheduled next years trip for June 20-29 if you are interested shoot me an email and I will be happy to provide more information.
About the fishery
Avalon Fishing’s Cayo Largo’s program is one of the most unique operations in the world. Avalon is the only fishing operator on the island. Approximately 60 square miles of easily accessible waters are available to Avalon’s six Dolphin flats boats and that’s it! It’s often hard to believe that you can run 45 minutes, passing by countless keys, creeks and flats and not see another boat. The waters surrounding Cayo Largo are diverse. Bonefish, permit and tarpon are present year round. Jacks, snappers, barracuda, boxfish, needlefish, and snook are also available and often caught when targeted or when casting to one of the big three. With zero external pressures on the fishery and a desire to preserve this truly fantastic resource the 60 square miles are divided into six beats and each beat is rested for a minimum of 2 days. Wind weather and tides further dictate locations within zones creating a seemingly endless array of ideal fishing spots for the angler. The guides at Cayo Largo are hard working and have superb knowledge of the fishery.
A typical day
Lodging and standard resort meals are included in the trips total price. Anglers stay at the Melia Sol all-inclusive resort on Cayo Largo.
Wake up whenever you like. I usually got up around six for a cup of coffee or two. Breakfast is served at the resort buffet at 7:30. The C- grade buffet serves buffet style breakfast; from the buffet prepare your lunch for the day. At 8am a bus takes you to the Marina, where Avalon has a fishing clubhouse. Anglers are given a cubby at the clubhouse so you can leave your fishing gear and not take it back and forth on the bus from the resort. Waters, sodas and beers depending upon your daily choice are distributed at the fishing clubhouse. Guides load your lunch; beverages and fishing equipment into boat and you’re usually off the dock by 8:30am. Daily runs to fishing range from 5-50 minutes depending upon weather and your daily beat. Lunch is a quick stop on a beach, or small island where you sit in the sand and gobble down your ham and cheese, fruit and whatever else you could find at the buffet. The rest of the angling day is spent hunting whatever quarry you would like. Cayo Largo is famous for the possibility for a Grand Slam and the guides shoot for it daily unless otherwise instructed. We found ourselves in search of permit shots most afternoons. The fishing day is over between 5pm and 5:30pm when you are returned to the marina for a cold beverage and a couple of slices of pizza. The resort bus takes you back to the resort around 6pm and dinner is served at the resort between 7pm and 10pm.
This years trip went really smooth, travel to Cayo Largo can be a bit unpredictable and it was really nice to have zero issues.
The solitude and preserved saltwater habitat near Cayo Largo are what really blow my mind. Miles and miles of beautiful flats are throughout the 60 square mile zone around Cayo Largo. Large and small channels that cut through smaller keys number in the hundreds and provide river like environs where you can focus on tarpon, jacks and snappers during good tidal rips. Shallow mangrove lined back bays are awesome habitat for baby tarpon and bonefish. Section six has a gorgeous reef where larger tarpon cruise amidst coral heads and wave action depending upon the wind and tide. The diversity of fish and habitat are truly amazing.
Bonefish are in all sections at Cayo Largo and when the tides are right or even if there not guides seem to be able to find them virtually at will. The average sized fish is very respectable to big.
Permit are tough to catch everywhere in the world and Cayo Largo is no exception. In my experience however, given good weather, you will get more shots at Cayo Largo than almost anywhere in the world. Our group had shots everyday and 3 permit were brought to hand.
Cayo Largo Tarpon range in size from 5-75lbs. You typically find the big ones near deeper channels and reefs, smaller fish near mangroves and bays tucked back in the mangroves. The group found tarpon every day. A clear sink tip line was excellent because you could use it in the deeper channel, simply waiting a bit for it to get down, or in the very shallow bays when you needed to strip as soon as the fly landed. The Rio Tarpon Short with the clear tip was ideal.
Ideal rods for this trip are 9 foot 8,9 and 10 weights. Orvis sent me the new Helios 2 10wt which cast great and was incredibly light, it’s an excellent rod and I would recommend it. I did break it on a Tarpon but I am pretty sure it was my fault.
My favorite on the trip and just flat out one of the best all around rods you can own for the salt is the Sage ONE 990-4. It is excellent for permit and small tarpon, casting larger flies with ease. If the wind really cranks up it’s light enough for bonefish.
Lou used the Echo3S 10wt and was very impressed as well. “The rod did not wear you down like a heavy or overly stiff 10wt can.”
Two lines really stood out on the trip. Several anglers purchased the Rio Bonefish Quickshooter just prior to the trip. They found it to load short and cast great at all distances. If you have an upcoming bonefish adventure get a quickshooter line you will be surprised at the difference between what you have been fishing. The Mastery Textured Bruce Chard Grand Slam line was superb as well.
The Nautilus N/V giga arbor reels are really hard to beat in the saltwater. NV reels are incredibly light for their size with smooth fish stopping drag mechanisms. The Bauer Rogue performed nicely as well. I really like the large drag knob on the Rogue for easy adjustment and tight tolerances between frame and spool keep things in line when you have excessive line or backing in the mix. The Hatch 9+ was on my 10wt for most of the trip. The reel is heavier than the Bauer or the NV Nautilus but it is solid. The Hatch reel has a very smooth drag and tons of capacity. The reel foot of the Hatch is machined as a part of the frame, the handle is a machined piece, the counter balance is machined, you get the idea. Nothing on the Hatch is going to fail.
It was hot, muggy and buggy at times on our trip and a Buff is a must have. The Buff offered sun and wind protection all day, without it you might melt. I found a new favorite lightweight fishing shirt, Patagonia’s Sun Stretch long sleeve shirt has en excellent fit and lightweight fabric. It could be washed in the shower at night, dried outside all night and ready to go in the a.m. The Sun Stretch has SPF 30 and a good pocket design, I have been wearing it on the river locally and it’s really comfortable when rowing or casting.
This trip is completely unique and it won’t be this preserved forever. The program at Cayo Largo is one of the best in all of the Caribbean. If a saltwater trip is on your to do list don’t miss this spot!
En route to fishing, a few shots of Havana City. We stay downtown for one night on each side of the week fishing trip. Usually there is enough time to get out and experience a bit of the fascinating and quickly changing city.