Dec 14

Making Nice with Cuba

The Prez. announced that the US would normalize relations with Cuba. This was greeted by applause, condemnation and, probably, a general lack of awareness in the US of where Cuba is.

This new opening doesn’t translate to you being immediately able to take that Cuban fishing trip worry free, tourism is still not “OK,” but it is a step in the right direction. And… let’s be honest, if you want to fish Cuba, you can. You just have to be a bit creative and be OK with a bit of risk, even though it really is a very small risk.

Some are very opposed to normalizing relations with Cuba, but in a day and age when we trade with China, Vietnam and Russia, having no ties with Cuba seems silly. I mean, if we haven’t changed Cuba in the last 50 years with these policies, why do we keep trying using the same techniques?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

So, Cuba is slowly opening up. Soon, it could be fully open and us Americans can finally rush in to destroy Cuba… right?

I doubt that narrative. First, Cuba is still Cuba and it has exclusive concessions for a lot of the really good fishing and it still has very complicated ownership rules and regulations. Secondly, I don’t know how much tolerance Americans will have for the state of the infrastructure over there. Third, how exactly have we destroyed the other Caribbean economies? The places are not overflowing with American resorts. Sure, there are some, but outside of Nassau, it is really on a pretty modest scale (or so it seems to me).

I welcome closer ties with Cuba. It is a really interesting place and the people deserve better than what they have.

Awesome shot by Jim Klug.

Awesome shot by Jim Klug.

Cuba 2012

Bonefish... I like bonefish.

Bonefish… I like bonefish.

Photo by Matt Hansen... me, seconds after losing a really, really nice fish.

Photo by Matt Hansen… me, seconds after losing a really, really nice fish.

Mmmmm... beer.

Mmmmm… beer.


Jul 14

Nets all around

Photo by Matt Hansen... me, seconds after losing a really, really nice fish.

Photo by Matt Hansen… me, seconds after losing a really, really nice fish.

Well… want to get a little depressed?

Here’s a story about netting in Long Island… that’s bonefish netting. This makes me grumpy. I have to say, I didn’t see any netting there when I was there, but, Courntey did.

One of Mr Knowles’s recent guests, Courtney-Marie Martin, writing in the Internet-based fishing blog, skinnywaterculture.com, said of her Long Island experience: “I witnessed first-hand one of the major conservation issues currently going on in the area, with gill netters present not far from the flat we just fished.

“My heart broke. If we don’t preserve what little we have left, this will all be gone, and there will be no future generation to follow in our footsteps. This is apparently an on-going, don’t ask don’t tell, problem on the island. With a heavy heart, and the thought of bonefish being gill netted, along with other innocents by catch, we headed in.”

If that’s not enough, there are some who think the decline in bonefish in the Keys may have something to do with commercial netting in Cuba. That’s what this article puts forward.

We do not know the exact correlation between the bonefish in the Keys and the fish in Cuba, but we do know that about fifteen years ago, there was massive netting projects going on in the north part of Cuba, gill nets that stretched miles across the flats and channels.  From  reports the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust has heard, thousands and thousand of bonefish, along with countless other species were netted and sold at market.  At about this same time, the bonefish population suddenly plummeted in the Florida Keys.  

And why do I keep bringing stuff like this up?

“We have reached the time in the life of the planet and humanities demands upon it when every fisherman will have to be a river keeper, a steward of marine shallows and a watchman on the high seas. We are beyond having to put back what we have taken out. We must put back more than we take out. We must make holy war on the enemies of aquatic life as we have gillnetters, polluters and drainers of wetlands. Otherwise, as you have already learned, these creatures will continue to disappear at an alarming rate. We will lose as much as we have already lost already and there will be next to nothing, remnant populations, put-and-take, dim bulbs following the tank truck.”  –Tom McGuane writing in the Some Remarks section of his outstanding book The Longest Silence.

Jun 14

A boney day in Cuba

From my Cuba trip, 2012.

Today I told the guide I didn’t want to pick up my tarpon rod and I ended up not doing that at all. What was in store was a really fun day of bonefishing with Chris Santella and guide TiTi. We also managed to tangle with a few jacks and cudas.

The bones first.  They were larger today than I had expected with the average bumping up toward 4 pounds. On one flat I spotted a dorsal and asked the guide if it was a bonefish. He said “No, shark……………… BONEFISH! BONEFISH! BONEFISH!” Had to be 10 pounds, plus. Didn’t get a cast in to it, but it was very exciting nonetheless.

The guide has two ways of finding bonefish. Looking for them and not looking for them. We went in search of Jacks a few times and almost every time we found bonefish. I didn’t mind at all.

That said… sometimes we weren’t the only ones to find the bones.

One bone got munched in half by a cuda.  First time that has happened to me. Odd experience to reel in half a bonefish.

Thanks for the pull. Sorry it didn't work out.

Thanks for the pull. Sorry it didn’t work out.

Those cudas… man… they are devious. Hooked up on a cuda and a second cuda bit the line, freeing his brother.  BASTARDS!

All said a good day.  Saw some really great and beautiful country today and had a very good time. Pics to follow when the frigging internet is fast enough!

Now, on to drinks on my last night on the Tortuga.

Sep 13

From the Archives – My -2″ Cuban Grand Slam

(originally published May 9, 2012)

The tarpon was first and that was clearly the pig of the trip.  After we finally released that fish we went looking for some bonefish.

We found them.

Really, I think the guides could likely produce bones pretty much all day, but they like chasing the tarpon when they are in, since they don’t stick around all year and the window is about three months long.

The bones weren’t big, maybe 3 pounds, but they fought well and we even had one little cluster Fuque where I got a knot in my running line that went through the guides.  Jim worked on getting the knot undone and I hand lined the fish, which meant it had PLENTY of slack.  The thing turned around and started swimming leisurely back toward us. The thing came so close to the boat that I just figured I’d wait and pull it’s head out of the water. That’s exactly what happened and we managed to land the bonefish pretty much without the rod.

The next flat we went to was ocean-side and as I got up on deck Jim asked the guide “you ever see any permit here?”

“Sometimes” was the reply, although it should have been “Sure, in about a minute.”

There was Mr. Permit cruising right toward us.  No time to switch rods, the bonefish fly would have to do (a Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp). The fish lit up on the fly, started chasing it down doing a little erratic dance behind it. I SWEAR it ate, as did Jim, but I was tight to the fly and there was never any sort of resistance on the line. Just like that it bugged off and I was left, about 2″ from a Cuban Grand Slam.

Kind of cool to come so close.  I know it is mostly luck and “right time/right place” that gets you those Grand Slams and I was pretty damn close to getting it right.

That’s why we keep fishing.

Photo by Jim Klug, Tarpon by Cuba

Really… I can’t complain at all.



Dec 12

Obligitory – A look back at 2012

I was reminded by Troutrageous that it was time for me to look back at 2012.

What a year, eh? I had highlights in my personal and fishing lives. It will be a hard year to surpass, really. So many wonderful things happened. I can’t help but feel like a very lucky guy.

Here is what 2012 held for me.

I welcomed 2012 in at the Yaak Tavern in MT where I had the very strong suspicion I had met my future wife.

I got a chance to go to Cuba with Jim Klug and a bunch of writers. Amazing experience that included my magazine worthy Tarpon shot.

Photo by Jim Klug, Tarpon by Cuba

Photo by Jim Klug, Tarpon by Cuba

My divorce got finalized.

I got engaged.

I discovered the joys of pier fishing with my girl who loves sharks and loves being my fishing buddy.

The girl and her shark.

The girl and her shark.

I got married.

A good day.

A good day.

The honeymoon brought me back to El Pescador in Belize.

renee and bjorn El Pescador
I got two saltwater trips in, which for me, being fully employed and having split custody of a 5 year old, is a pretty good trick. Cuba and Belize are kind of choice locations and I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit both in 2012.

It has been a very, very good year.  I’m looking forward to what 2013 will bring.

I have one trip lined up already. This is to Grand Bahama for Spring Break. It will be my intro to the Bahamas for my little girl and my new wife. I’m thinking this could be a good thing.

All the best to you in 2013 and thanks for reading and taking part in the blog.

Jun 12

BOTB in the Drake

Well… who knew? I was just at Barnes and Noble and saw an issue of The Drake.

I don’t have a subscription and while I have heard really good things about the magazine, I had not ever purchased one. I had decided that this was the time to do so and as I thumbed through the magazine on the way up to the cashier I saw there was a poster insert.  I took a peak and recognized, instantly, my own hand. Well… that’s kind of awesome.  My tarpon is in The Drake.  Jim Klug took the photo, and a damn fine photo it is.

My poon, photo by Jim Klug

May 12

Charlie’s First Bonefish on the Fly

One of the fun things about my last couple trips has been fishing with people really at the start of bonefishing.  Back in Andros, it was with Rebecca Garlock and in Cuba it was with Charlie Levine.  Now, they were both coming from different places.  Rebecca has been fishing the long rod for a while now, but hadn’t really done anything in the salt.  Charlie has spent a good number of days in the salt, but mostly in the deep, dark blue stuff with conventional tackle.  There were some parallels with the two experiences though.  Basically, both were kind of hard on themselves.  They felt the pressure to make it all come together. Of course, it all works better when you slow down and, of course, they both got it to happen.

Here’s Charlie’s story over at BDOutdoors.

Stoked in Cuba

May 12

Me, in Cuba

This is me, fishing with Avalon down in Cuba in the Jardines de la Reina.  This is back in the mangroves… deep in the mangroves and Matt Hansen was Johnny on the Spot with the video.  What you’ll see here is me botch two bonefish in about 4 minutes.  It was pretty difficult stuff to fight a fish in, but it was exactly what I wanted to be doing.

Warning… there is some profanity, in case you are worried about your ears bleeding.

May 12


I just got this photo from Cuba taken by Matt Hansen.  I know exactly what happened here and I think this picture pretty much sums it up.

We were pushing through the back country looking for bones and we had just emerged into a little lagoon.  Off to the left flashed an impossibly large bonefish tail. I made the cast right on its nose and it ate almost immediately. It went streaking across the lagoon, pulling off 100 or so feet of line and then it took a slight left detour, brushing up against the clump of mangrove right below where my rod tip is.  The fish came off.  This fish was my immediate reaction to losing the fish.

It probably would have been my biggest bonefish ever.  That tail haunts me.



May 12

Cuba, after I left

I had to go home.  I didn’t have that much vacation time or idle money and I needed to get back to my girls. However, the trip wasn’t over and the gang that I left added some members and kept going strong.

Luckily, Jim Klug was still there with a camera and he kept on putting it all in pixels (here’s the gallery of that second week).

Here’s one of the folks that joined just as I left.  Miles Nolte is a name you might recognize.  He’s an author and the new voice of angling at Gray’s Journal.

Nice fish Miles.

I got to talk to Miles a little in the lobby of the hotel before I headed back.  He was excited about the week ahead.  I can understand why.  Wish I had been able to stay and head to the Island of Youth with Avalon, but, life was calling.  I feel pretty fortunate to have been there for the week I was.  It was a very special trip and one I’ll hold close for a long, long time.