Las Salines is the most lonely place on Cuba except maybe Guantanamo bay. But else than Guantanamo bay, Las Salinas is really a nature jewel. 1700 square miles, the largest wetland in the Caribbean. An untouched nature reserve forbidden to enter except maybe for fly fishing. And here the story begins.
Las Salinas is a small archipelago south of Cuba close to the bay of pigs. It is only accessible via a bumpy dirty road, 20 miles long. I can’t imagine a more bumpier road than this one. It takes 2 hours from entrance to the end. Even on the back of a mule you wouldn’t be much slower. And as if that is not enough millions of crabs running around like crazy. I can’t deny the situation was funny but you really don’t want to kill them. Bravely they stretch their claws in the air fight off the big rolling monster. A hopeless case. The drive to the flats is a pure adventure. If your car breaks down you’re really screwed. Our beloved Geely was in a fairly good condition but after 3 days of fishing on Las Salinas it almost reached the end.
You learn a lot about comfort when you almost need the same time reaching a fishing destination than to fish there. But it had also good sides. Firstly we had great talks with the Guides and secondly although it was a painful road, it also was a very beautiful landscape. The more you come to the end the more the landscape turns from a impenetrable swamp to a wide open flats on each side of the road. There is a small building that acts as the basis for the nature reserve rangers as well as for the guides. Any kind of guiding starts from there in either small plastic flat boats or bigger fiberglass boats when it goes a little further out.
The flats there are a mixture of muddy and hard ground, partially also with turtle grass. There are also some mangrove areas with channels and a tidal current. These mangroves and also the channels are the home of tarpons. Some very big tarpons were caught there. It is a really interesting fishery. The tarpons move through the mangroves. You can feel and hear that they are on the way to you. And suddenly they are there. I still can remember my first tarpon there. A school of tarpons came through the mangroves maybe 30 feet ahead of us. I placed the fly next to the school. One tarpon left the school and took my fly unhesitatingly in the clear water. A dream of a bite.
But it is not as easy as on the Rio Hatiguanico. The water is crystal clear and even if only one fish is spooked, all other fish in the surroundings spook too. They flee into the mangroves and return a few minutes later. I have also seen barracudas but I weren’t able to move the fly in the appropriate speed to attract them. With the bones it was a little bit different. I was scared the first time we went out for bonefish. I heard a lot about them, and most of it was that they are very hard to catch. Honestly, it wasn’t. Spotting them in the knee deep water was a bit of a challenge but together with my guide Felipe I learned quickly for what I have to look for. Shortly thereafter I spotted my first bonefish. Catching them was more trickier. But mainly I had my troubles in casting the tiny un-weighted flies. I should have spent more time practising casts for bones. Wherever I wanted to cast, the fly always landed on the bonefish’s head- And of course he spooked. Thanks god the bones didn’t realize who I was or what dropped on their heads. They swam a few meters away and gave me the next opportunity. I have never seen such friendly and cooperative fish.
We spent 3 days on the flats of Las Salinas with streaky success. The first day we fought more against the elements. Clouded sky and strong wind resulted in big waves made bone fishing more complicated than I wished for my first time. We spent the day mostly for catching tarpon. By luck I hooked up my first bonefish but lost him with some line tangling around my feet. But nevertheless the tarpons were equal funny to catch. The second day was similar to even more worse so again more focus on the poons. I had two encounters with a lemon sharks with one very interested in my bonefish fly and the other one completely uninterested in a big delicious streamer on a wire trace. Not what I have begged for.
Day 3 was a classical bonefish day. The sun came out and the wind abated on the flats. Absolute perfect conditions. And this time Felipe had the idea to go to the outer end of Las Salinas. A two and a half hours ride with a small engine powered fiberglass boat to the absolute prime bonefish waters were you have a good chance casting a fly at completely virgin bones. All this was very well organized by the guides. And we had a great time. The bones were there and fully cooperative. I struggled again with casting at them but managed to hook a lot of them. All with the same size of around four to five pounds. Felipe did an excellent jobs guiding me to my first bones. Unfortunately, because of the long way home we had not much time to fish there but the few hours we had time were awesome.
Las Salinas is a pure nature beauty that offers many kind of fly fishing opportunities. The guides are very committed to their jobs and most of all also the fishes allow a carefree fishing. Especially for beginners Las Salines is a hot tip. If you don’t mind the long way its my clear recommendation.
Viva la revolucion