Fly Fishing the Isle of Youth
Originally called the Isle of Pines (“Isla de Pinos”) until it was renamed in 1978, Isla de la Juventud (“Island of Youth”) is the second-largest Cuban island and the seventh-largest island in the West Indies (the main island of Cuba included). The capital and largest city are Nueva Gerona on the north side of the island. Most anglers head to Isla de la Juventud for the world-class tarpon fishing, which is without a doubt some of the finest found anywhere in the Caribbean. This area is home to great numbers of tarpon, and while the spring and summer months typically see the most consistent action and largest numbers of tarpon, there are fish here throughout the year. When the waters are calm and wind fairly low, then you can expect to pole the flats for shots at tarpon in the 30 to 80-pound range. Larger fish are in the area as well and can be found on a fairly regular basis during the late spring and early summer months. When the weather is tough and the visibility is affected by clouds or rain, you can expect to fish any number of deeper channels, in areas where tarpon congregate and sit. This is a pretty effective way to hook fish and the tarpon are almost always there. The huge chain of keys and islands to the southeast of Nueva Gerona offer some of the most spectacular waters and pristine flats you have ever seen. This is an area that is home to not only tarpon of all sizes, but also some very large bonefish and decent numbers of permit.
For all Isla de la Juventud trips, we book the Avalon Fleet I mothership. This distinct vessel guarantees guests a pleasant, exciting and exclusive voyage through the Canarreos Archipelago area. The atmosphere was conceived and executed to provide guests the finest live-aboard experience in the Caribbean. The yacht is intimate, comfortable and stylishly-designed; each space is created to provide guests with maximum comfort and safety.
Maximum capacity is 18 passengers and eight crew members, although each week aboard the yacht is limited to eight to 10 anglers in order to provide comfort and privacy. Aboard the ship, there are eight (8) deluxe king cabins (all with queen-sized beds) with seven (7) private bathrooms. The staterooms accompanying each cabin feature air conditioning and heat controls, electricity plugs, and plenty of storage space. A panoramic window spans each room, allowing guests to enjoy the Caribbean view expanding endlessly before them. A spacious and comfortable lounge, dining room and bar area on the upper deck offer space for relaxed socializing and dining. There is also a hot tub and an indoor lounge outfitted with excellent visual and audio equipment.
Food and Beverages
The galley aboard the Avalon Fleet I takes great pride in serving amazing Cuban food, fresh seafood, and a variety of international dishes. Breakfasts are cooked-to-order each morning. Lunches can either be packed for a full day on the flats, or guests have the option to return to the ship mid-day to eat and relax. All dinners are served with international wines, local liquors, and desserts.
Typical Length of Stay
The structured package is seven (7) nights / six (6) fishing days. A normal week includes five full days of fishing and one or two half days, depending on your schedule and ground/air transfers on arrival and departure days. Additional days in Havana or on other parts of the island can easily be arranged and itineraries can be fully customized. Please contact Yellow Dog for more details.
Non-Angling Activities and Options
This is a remote, live-aboard operation located in the mangrove and saltwater wilderness of the Canarreos Archipelago area. Non-angling activities are very limited. Overall this destination is best suited for anglers.
Wi-Fi is not available aboard the Avalon Fleet I, which means that once you board the ship, you will be offline and totally unplugged (something that is getting hard to find these days). Check with your cell service provider to see if your U.S. cell phone will work in Cuba. “World Phones” can be used and are a very affordable option. Also, satellite phones are strictly prohibited in Cuba and will be confiscated at the airport on arrival.
How To Get There
If your Avalon package begins at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), you can fly into Cuba and arrive from just about any place in the world. There are numerous daily flights in and out of Havana (HAV) from Mexico, Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Italy, and numerous other countries. There are also direct, third-party charter flights from more than ten major U.S. cities that currently fly directly to Havana. Many guests choose to fly to Havana from Mexico City (MEX), which is a quick and easy trip. At the present time, Yellow Dog recommends direct flights from Mexico City (MEX) aboard AeroMexico. (They have the largest number of daily flights, and they are by far the most reliable air carrier servicing Havana). Upon arrival into Havana, you will clear immigration and customs before heading to the main reception area of the airport, where you will be met by a representative from Avalon who will be waiting for you. From the airport, you will be transferred via taxi to a hotel in downtown Havana, where you will overnight before departing from Havana (HAV) for Isla de la Juventad’s Rafael Cabrera Airport (GER) in Nueva Gerona the next morning. The transfer to the island involves a van ride to the regional airport in Havana, followed by a short commercial flight to Nueva Gerona or a private charter depending on airline services at the time of your trip.
Arrival and Departure Details / Times
Anglers typical fly into Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) on a Friday, where they overnight in the city. The next morning (Saturday) you will meet in the hotel lobby to board a van for the airport, where you will catch a short 45-minute flight to Isla de la Juventad’s Rafael Cabrera Airport (GER) in Nueva Gerona. Frequently this flight is aboard a chartered helicopter. You will arrive mid-morning on the island, where you will be greeted by representatives from Avalon and transferred to the Avalon I moored in the Jucaro River. You spend the first night at the port and will board your skiff the next morning for your first day of fishing. Each night you will moor in a different location throughout the ‘Archipielago de los Canarreos’. Depending on the tides and conditions you may return to Avalon I each day for lunch and a siesta prior to fishing until sunset and the return to the boat for the night. Avalon I will return to the mooring in the Jucaro River for your final night aboard prior to early disembarkation and return transfer to the Nueva Gerona (GER) airport for the flight back to Havana (HAV). You can either schedule a late departure flight out of Havana or we can arrange a final hotel night in Havana prior to your departing flights. Many visitors choose to add an extra day or two in the city to explore Havana and the surrounding areas. Yellow Dog can help arrange for additional time in Cuba and associated logistics.
A valid passport is required for all visitors to Cuba and must be valid for at least six (6) months beyond the duration of your stay. Citizens of the United States are also required to have a Cuban entrance visa can be secured when checking in for your direct flight to Cuba. You will be asked to sign an affidavit for your trip to Cuba and determine which OFAC category your trip qualifies for. Most of our trips qualify as an Educational or Person to Person trip to Cuba.
Yellow Dog works directly with and recommends Kanna Travel. They can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact them at 855-739-3139 or [email protected] for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services, and trip insurance.
General Fishing Information
Most anglers head to Isla De Juventud for the world-class tarpon fishing, which is without a doubt some of the finest found anywhere in the Caribbean. This area is home to great numbers of tarpon, and while the spring and summer months typically see the most consistent action and largest numbers of tarpon, there are fish here throughout the year. When the waters are calm and wind fairly low, then you can expect to be polling the flats for a shot of shot on tarpon in the 30 to 80-pound range. Larger fish are in the area as well and can be found on a fairly regular basis. When the weather is tough and the visibility is affected by clouds or rain, then you can expect to fish any number of deeper channels, where the guides know the tarpon congregate and sit. This is a pretty effective way to hook fish, and the tarpon are almost always there!
The huge chain of keys and islands to the southeast of Nueva Gerona offer some of the most spectacular waters and pristine flats you have ever seen. This is an area that is home to not only tarpon of all sizes, but also some very large bonefish and decent numbers of permit. The bonefish here are some of the largest in all of Cuba, and these fish can be found on a very regular basis in all types of conditions. The snook fishing in the area is also amazing – hands-down the best on all of Cuba. Expect multiple shots for all types of species, and come prepared with multiple rod set-ups for tarpon, bones, permit, snook, ‘cuda and more.
Fly fishing in Cuba is far different from other destinations in the Caribbean. Only in recent years has this flats fishery been developed, and most of the areas fished by Avalon are areas that are protected as a part of the Cuban National Marine Parks system, where no commercial fishing is allowed other than for lobster. And since the fishing pressure is so light in these areas, flats species like tarpon, permit, bonefish, snook, mutton snapper, barracuda, and a variety of jacks are found in incredible numbers and (compared to many other destinations) can at times be relatively easy to catch. Despite heavy commercial fishing pressure before the ban, Cuba’s remote archipelagos have remained unspoiled because most of them are situated 50 to 100 miles off the mainland coast and are not easily reached, even by lobster fishermen.
The guides that work for Avalon – while fairly limited with their English – have become excellent guides and very good fly fishermen. Give them a fly rod and they’ll double-haul a 70-foot cast, or show you just how to work a fly to make a bonefish charge and inhale it. They spot fish as well as any of the Caribbean’s best guides, and they enjoy enthusiastic anglers that want to fish hard. They generally love to work long days, allowing you to fish as hard as you want. This can be a remarkable contrast to many other destinations or lodges where you are often limited to six or eight hours on the water, including your running time. In Avalon’s destinations, there is never any limitation on gas used or distances run in the day.
One misconception that many anglers have about Cuba is that it fishes like “Disneyland” when it comes to the numbers and sizes of fish. The fact of the matter is that this is simply not the case (at least not all the time). While the angling pressure is extremely light compared to all other Caribbean saltwater destinations, Cuba, in general, has been fished by many anglers from Europe, Canada, and even the U.S. for more than 15 years. Some people have the perception that it has been totally locked off and untouched for the past 60 years, and that a trip to Cuba will allow them to be the very first to ever fish these areas. That is simply not the case. That said, when it comes to fishing throughout Cuba, there is probably no place that is as untouched and lightly pressured by recreational anglers as the waters to the east of Nueva Gerona. The fish in this area receives very little pressure and as a result, are more likely to cooperate and eat a fly on any given day. That is what Cuba offers.
Boats and Equipment
Boats used by Avalon are Dolphin Super Skiffs with Yamaha 80 or 90HP motors. Radios and life jackets are carried aboard every skiff. Since fly fishing equipment is hard to come by on Juventad, it is recommended that anglers bring their own equipment. Flies, leaders, tippet, all terminal tackle, and all accessories should be packed as well, as very few items are available anywhere in Cuba!
September 1, 2018 – March 2, 2019
$4,800 per person (based on double occupancy)
March 2, 2019 – June 29, 2019
$7,200 per person (based on double occupancy)
Remember that Yellow Dog’s services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter.
- Meet-and-greet reception upon arrival in Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport (HAV)
- Seven (7) nights accommodations aboard Avalon I
- Three meals per day (all-inclusive meal service)
- Six (6) full days of guided fishing (two anglers per skiff) from Avalon I
- Beverages while aboard Avalon I
- Taxes and GSTs
What’s Not Included:
- International flights to and from Havana (HAV)
- Charter fee for flight between Havana and Nueva Gerona
- Cost of taxi transfers from Havana Airport to the hotel in Havana on arrival and departure days
- Meals, drinks, taxis and any additional expenses while in Havana
- Fishing tackle, equipment, flies and all terminal tackle
- Cuban entrance visa
- Gratuities for guides and staff (must be paid in cash with CUCs)
- Additional beer and bar tab over the allotted amount
- Conservation Fee ($100)
Trip Deposit and Trip Cancelation Information
For all Cuba trips less than 90 days out, full payment is required to secure guides and reservations. For trips outside of 90 days, a 70% deposit is required within 10 days to hold and confirm reservations. Payment for all Cuba trip must be made in US dollars and can be made using check, money order or wire transfer only (no credit card payments for Cuba trips will be accepted and PLEASE do not write ‘Cuba’ in the memo of checks). Any cancellations on Cuba trips will incur a $250.00 Yellow Dog handling fee regardless of timing. Passport number, date of birth and full name (as printed in passport) is required to confirm any Cuba reservation. Outside of 180 days from the start of the trip, deposits are refundable minus an $800 Cuban operator handling fee, which will be held and retained by the operators unless the trip is resold. Inside of 180 days of the start date of the trip, all deposits and payments are non-refundable unless Yellow Dog or Cuban operator are able to resell your spot(s). No refunds are available for unused portions of packages. Trip cancellation insurance is highly recommended. Please note that credit card payments cannot be accepted for any incidentals or expenses once in Cuba. All programs and execution of programs remain subject to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Claims for refunds from Cuban operators will not be accepted.