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A subscriber who has asked to remain anonymous has filed a scathing report about a fishing trip to Cayo Paredon in Cuba, one of the two north coast areas I reviewed in these pages last August. I warned subscribers in that review that the north coast of Cuba is very windy and the guide situation is still very much in development. Here is what the subscriber has to say about his trip, which originated with a call to Slipstream Angling in Canada (www.slipstreamangling .com) but was arranged for him by Planet Fly Fishing in France (www.planetfly fishing.com) and outfitted by Fabrizio Barbazza of Batida Travel.
“My trip this past April to Cayo Paredon was the worst trip of my life. In Havana, our hotel was overbooked, so our first night there we were directed to a lesser quality hotel. The next morning we were dropped off at the airport and had to figure out, on our own, which gate and plane was ours. Fortunately, we ended up on the right plane. On our arrival at Cayo Coco, once again, our hotel was overbooked, causing us to be reassigned to a three-star hotel down the beach that was like a bad Holiday Inn. We stayed there for three days before we were finally moved into the hotel for which we had paid. As for Fabrizio, when I met him the first night, he told us that we would be picked up at 7:15 a.m. for a 45-minute drive to Cayo Paredon. I asked him how the fishing was and he told me that the group that had just left hadn’t caught any. I said, ‘What!’ and he said simply that the weather was bad. During the next six days, a total of 22 fish were caught by nine fishermen from around the world: two Russians, two Frenchmen, four Americans, and one from Iceland. These were all quality fishermen. I myself fish 300 days a year. There were literally no fish. The area was supposed to be a national park with only Fabrizio’s clients fishing. There were 17 boats tied to the dock when we left the last day. The beautiful flats were devoid of fish. No sharks. No bonefish. Nothing. I was finally told by my guide that the area had been netted for two years. The final blow came the day we were scheduled to leave when we were told that the plane taking us back to Havana was not flying and we had to take a nine-hour bus ride instead. We were never reimbursed for the inferior hotels, the bus ride we had to take instead of a plane ride, or anything else. Olivier Lauzanne at Planet Fly Fishing did offer us $900 on our next trip with him. That is not going to happen.” Don Causey Note: I e-mailed a copy of this report to Olivier Lauzanne and to Fabrizio Barbazza with plenty of time to reply for this issue of the newsletter. At press time, I had heard only from Lauzanne, who had this to say.
“This booking was passed onto me by Slipstream Angling about 45 days before the clients were to arrive in Cuba. I made the booking for hotels, domestic flights, and fishing guides as soon as I received the confirmation from the clients. April is a very difficult month because Cuba is crowded then and hotels do not hesitate to overbook. Hotels usually confirm your booking only two days before the arrival of your clients, at which point they sometimes inform you that they have re-booked your client into another hotel. I am not trying to find excuses. This is just the way it is in Cuba. It is bad luck that it happened to this group in Havana and in Cayo Coco and for the domestic flight that was supposed to take them back to Havana on the last day.
“Regarding the fishing, I think it is bad luck again. Weather in April was terrible in Cuba this season. When the wind is strong it is almost impossible to reach the good areas at Cayo Paredon. This is the price to pay when you fish the north coast of Cuba. Cayo Paredon has a lot of fish and big ones, but the weather is difficult. It is very windy most of the time and the good season (with normally less wind) is very short (April–July). It is not true to say that the area is devoid of fish, though. Cayo Paredon is probably the best fishing area of Cuba in terms of fish size. This is the only place in Cuba where you can hope to catch a Grand Slam with a 10-plus-pound bonefish, a 20-plus-pound permit and a 100-plus pound tarpon. Our best week last year was in late May (one month after your subscriber’s visit), when 10 of our anglers caught 202 bonefish, five tarpon, and eight permit, plus many other fish of various species. You went to Cayo Paredon yourself last June. Were the flats empty? At this point a competing operator, Avalon, has paid big money to take over the area. There must be a reason they paid that big money. Even if I couldn’t have done anything regarding the overbooking, I feel 100 percent responsible. This is why I offered compensation toward a future trip. I would very much like to see these clients come back and see our operation when it works normally as regards the services and fishing we promise.”
Don Causey Note: It may not have been the agent’s and outfitter’s fault that hotels were overbooked for these clients. But failing to refund them the difference in cost between superior and inferior hotels is hard to accept. Ditto the difference in the cost of a bus trip versus a plane ride. Also, there is a possibility that guiding was poor on this trip, and clients should have been warned about that. Avalon, the rival operator who is taking over this area, has sent its star guide to Paredon to carry out a guide training program. The one thing that Lauzanne unquestionably has right is the quality of the fishing available at Paredon when conditions are right and competent guides are available. I can personally attest to that, and I think subsequent reports are going to support that view. As this is written, an Angling Report subscriber with wide knowledge of Cuba has promised to file an unbiased report on his return from a trip to Paredon with Avalon. His report should begin to answer the questions that linger about the number and quality of fish at Cayo Paredon. What that report is not going to answer, however, is the larger question I still have about Cayo Paredon and about Cayo Santa Maria, too, the north coast tarpon area that Barbazza and Lauzanne continue to control. That question revolves around the windiness of the area. Is that environmental factor going to be too unpredictable for a satisfying sportfishing program to emerge anywhere on the north coast of Cuba?