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Saltwater Fly Fishing Bonefish, Tarpon, Redfish, Permit, False Albacore, Striped Bass, etc...

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Old 03-18-2016, 05:56 AM
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Default Going to Cuba? Read This First.

I’ve long dreamed of a fly fishing trip to Cuba, and this March, I finally did it. To be kind, I’ll describe myself as a “well-seasoned” angler who has taken many guided fishing trips with many outfitters in many places, but I’ve never had a worse experience than I just endured fishing for Avalon Fishing Centers.

Regrettably, Avalon has an exclusive for fly fishing Cuba. You can book trips through agents, but they work for Avalon on a commission basis. Who knows what deal Avalon struck with the Cuban government, but the end result is a greedy monopoly.

If you live in the USA, traveling to Cuba is complicated. All options for getting there require extra time, documentation and expense, and you should do it far in advance.

My passion is tarpon, so I picked the Hotel Rancho destination on the Isla de la Juventud, which was within my meager budget and supposed be excellent for early-season, resident tarpon. I had talked to several other anglers who’d been there and had good success.

So I reserved a trip with Avalon, paid all the money, and made the complicated travel arrangements. Then, five days from departure, I receive an email from Avalon saying they moved our guides from Hotel Rancho to the Georgiana, also in Isla de la Juventud, but quite a different trip--a new “luxury yacht” for “exclusive groups” going for $7,800 per person per week. Our trip went for $2,350 per person. You do the math. I’m sure Avalon did.

Basically, Avalon reneged on its agreement with me, canceled my trip, and “graciously” offered to refund my money, but not for all the pre-paid travel expenses (about $1,400, i.e. airline tickets, hotels, shuttles and insurance.) So a refund wasn’t a viable option. Instead, Avalon offered to send me to another location, an option I reluctantly accepted.

I ended up at Cayo Cruz, a very nice place and in some ways better that Isla de la Juventud. But it’s primarily a bonefish/permit destination, not the reason I decided to go to Cuba. But apparently, the Monopoly decides where I go, not me.

I liken this to buying a plane ticket to fly to Hawaii, but after the plane takes off, the pilot announces that the airline can make more money flying me to Omaha instead, so that’s where I’m going.

Interestingly, in Cuba, I ran into other anglers. I explained, much to my chagrin, I was headed for Cayo Cruz, even though I booked a trip to Isla de la Juventud. Shocked, they replied that they’d booked a trip to Cayo Cruz, but Avalon canceled their trip five days in advance and sent them somewhere else. Humm….is this a pattern?

I did, incidentally, before writing this, politely ask for an explanation from Avalon, but no reply.

So, here’s the punch line. If you decide to book with Avalon, I suggest doing the following:

1. Plan on Avalon switching you to a different location the week before you leave.
2. Buy a refundable plane ticket, so you have the option of getting a refund.
3. Before paying Avalong any money, ask a copy of the contract you’ll be forced to sign after you’ve paid all the money and arrived at your destination. If you don’t sign it, you’ll sit in the hotel all week. The contract basically says, no amount of negligence or misconduct or poor service opens Avalon to any legal liability. This is really nasty business practices, sort of life having open heart surgery, and after the surgeon opens you up, he forces you sign a contract before he finishes the operation.
4. Ask Avalon precisely how long it takes to get from the lodge or yacht to the actual fishing destination. In my case, Avalon conveniently neglected to mention that I’d be spending three hours per day crammed in a bus on a bumpy road driving to the boat dock, followed by a long boat ride before wetting a line, leaving seven hours maximum fishing time if you skipped lunch.
5. Expect very bad communications between Avalon and the staff on the ground in Cuba. Incidentally, that “staff” is excellent and friendly, but works for the Cuba government, not Avalon. Business tip: Free labor is nice if you can get it.
6. Don’t be surprised by an “up-sale.” Cuba travel restrictions are gradually coming down, but in 2015, they were still partially in effect. So, Avalon tried hard to intimidate me into paying for a $500 (and later, $250) for a “license” I didn’t need. They also insisted Cuba would stamp my passport, and I’d have trouble re-entering the USA. Well, Cuba customs didn’t stamp my passport, and I had no trouble with US Customs.

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Old 03-18-2016, 06:25 AM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

Wow, thanks for the warning, good to know. I hadn't considered Cuba yet because of both the cost and the logistics, but I've been thinking about it for the future once US travel opens up more. I think I will at least wait until Avalon has competition from more reputable travel sponsors. In the meantime there are lots of other great places to fish in the Caribbean, so it's not difficult to find alternatives that are both reliable and fairly priced.

I'm heading to the Bahamas in a couple of weeks, but now I'm wondering whether even the Avalon Permit Flies and Cuban Shrimps I tied are going to prove to be bogus too!

AVALON FLY FISHING GRAND SLAM FLIES HOOK UP PERMIT TARPON BONEFISH SNOOK

Fishing flies for Cuba
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Old 03-18-2016, 07:35 AM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

Bummer about getting shuffled around like that, sounds like a perfect situation to buy travel insurance in advance. There are other outfitters in Cuba, but not sure if they are doing Tarpon fishing or maybe just bonefish. The way I understand how the system works down there is that Avalon has been given exclusive fishing rights to a certain section of Cuba (by the Cuban government), within that section, no other commercial operator is allowed to fish. MidCurrent has a very good article explaining the details.

Cuba?s Hidden Gem | MidCurrent
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Old 03-18-2016, 10:23 AM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

Thanks for the info! I have long wanted to fish and visit Cuba having never worried about the Cuban government, people, etc., and was particularly interested in Cayo Largo before it became developed.

As some here may attest to from my previous posts, though trying to be gentle about it I've mentioned this very thing regarding foreign guide services that suddenly seemed to have a lock on all sportfishing. Not only does it hint at slick palms, the rates that were being demanded (in that you cannot fish without using them) speak clearly of a monopoly.

That said, a couple of our other members have discussed optional groups that Canadian's have long utilized (and I personally don't have issue with the government insisting that you use an approved guide in that sportfishing then does help the local economy and can help protect the fishery)......Then you bring up this issue of agents, and that might help explain some of the negative reviews I've read, along with those positive.

Unfortunately, that means I need to do more research first, and sadly, each day that a trip is delayed that's one day closer to the Cuba I wanted to experience turning into the Cuba I don't.

Thanks for the review.....sorry for your disappointing trip.

B.E.F.

---------- Post added at 12:23 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:05 PM ----------

Okay, so that said Old Hooker, I do notice that you just joined the forum in January, so welcome, and that your first two posts are the review we find above.

So please excuse me if it offends you in that it is not my intent, and the information is welcome, however if all we have is the above to go on then it infers that you're simply upset justified or not of no matter, and looking to get a bit of payback.

Could you please tell us a little more about you, your lifelong fishing experience, your interests and so on so we have better information to go on then a singular post that can also be found on at least one other forum. I think you can see how it comes off as nothing but a smear campaign until we can learn better of you.

B.E.F.
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Old 03-18-2016, 10:27 AM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

I think this sounds like what I was talking, questioning about in my former posts on Cuba and the Avalon monopoly.

What a shame.
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Old 03-18-2016, 11:32 AM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

Thank you, old hooker, for your report though I'm sorry for your rough experience that would have made me very unhappy too. I too would love to fish Cuba and before it is totally integrated into the modern business world.

Outfitter aside, your experience brings up points relevant to angling destinations, particularly where boats are involved, everywhere. Ask about boats, what kind, how old, ship-to-shore radios and where is the dock relative to your lodging. I've stayed in bonefish camps where you drive for half an hour, even more, from lodge to skiff...rods dangerously jousting about and others where you walk out onto the deck from your room and the boat is right there...guess which I prefer? How experienced are the guides, where and by whom where they trained and how is there communication skills. I have fished with guides who only spoke Mayan...and Bahamian, English speaking guides that didn't know 9 O'clock from 3 or how far 50' is. Over dere, Mon, and he's behind you. Is alcohol available, included or do you need to bring your own? This is a very important aprčs fishing question! I fished a camp in the southern Bahamas run by teetotaler Ministers...

And, no matter what outfitter or any lodge tells you, bring more than everything you might need and with extra back up everything from lip balm to sunglasses to fly lines. I watched a prized fishing hat blown off a head on plane and, as the guide circled back, watched it sink deep into a Belizean channel. I have only had one rod broken in the Bahamas, by the misguided actions of my boat mate, not by laying them on the floor of a bus which gives me palpations. But I watched as an acquaintance handed a guide 7 rods belonging to him and his partner, the guide laid them in the boat and reached out his hand to help the angler aboard who slipped, stepping right on the rods breaking 5 of them.
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Old 03-18-2016, 11:44 AM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

Wow
I was planning trip to Cuba this year, but I will go to Belize instead.
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Old 03-18-2016, 12:16 PM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

Quote:
Originally Posted by agate View Post
Wow
I was planning trip to Cuba this year, but I will go to Belize instead.
I wouldn't write Cuba off completely, but if I was going it would be through a reputable guide service, not something that I setup on my own and definitely buy travel insurance. George Anderson from Yellowstone Angler has made several successful trips down there and now hosts trips, but it is on the north coast for bonefish and permit, not tarpon.
fly fishing travel hosted fishing trips - Yellowstone Angler

Yellow Dog Fly Fishing is also now doing trip arrangements to Cuba. Their travel agents have been there and know the ropes and pitfalls.

Cuba | Yellow Dog Fly Fishing
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Old 03-18-2016, 01:20 PM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

The first response in this thread lends some legitimacy to this post: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

Larry, wish you hadn’t posted that. Anderson’s package price is enticing.

Years ago when I was still hosting travel, one of our groups came across a similar situation with a highly regarded, world renowned American outfitter, who pulled the old bait and switch on us after we arrived.
I got lucky and got them back on track eventually, but it was a real test of wills ( and frankly who am I, compared to the all mighty Oz of the fly fishing world. ).
It wasn’t something that you’d ever want your clients to witness or have to be subjected too. The disappointment on our anglers faces when they got the news was heartbreaking. Most of these guys scrimp and save for a long time for the trip and the equipment they’d need for a shot at the brass ring, just have to have the rug pulled out from under them when they arrived.

You can exercise due diligence, follow up on every detail, confirm and reconfirm, plan all you want, but if the old switch-a-roo is part of their business model, short of turning around and catching a flight out, there’s not a lot an individual or a couple can do about it.
The thing is, in dealing with our particular outfitter, I’d be willing to bet that most single anglers would never have challenged the wisdom of the almighty Oz, they’d have just gone along with the new program………
Because the almighty Oz knows best.

Dave
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Old 03-18-2016, 01:33 PM
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Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

From what I gathered from Old Hooker's post it sounded like he booked directly with Avalon. Now, since they, Avalon, have exclusive rights doesnt that mean that all other trips like Yellowstone and Yellow Dog ultimately end up booking to Avalon...... I dont think its a guide thing, guides are the guys on the water everyday, its a concession or perhaps outfitter thing and Avalon, given what we know, seems to have it all to themselves.

"Regrettably, Avalon has an exclusive for fly fishing Cuba. You can book trips through agents, but they work for Avalon on a commission basis." If there are other outfitters there I guess I missed finding them or perhaps I did not look in the right place....... If so, my bad.
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