Cuba Bound

Monday, October 15th, 2012

If you’re looking for the sickest flats fly fishing destination in the world, you should be Cuba Bound.

Shot on location in Cayo Cruz, Cuba, this film from Fly Max Films takes you to an incredible destination which offers some of the best flats fly fishing in the world.

A Most Beautiful City

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

“It is the most beautiful land human eyes saw.”
— Christopher Columbus when first sighting Cuba near the present day town of Gibara. October 1492.

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Gibara or La Villa Blanca—The White Town—rest on the windswept north shore of Cuba, half hours drive from the city of Holguin.

Short of the city proper we cross a dark river before traversing a tunnel carved through a stone mountain, On the mud bank a man cast his small net, looking for bait or a meal.
An early cold front has the wind up this morning, twenty knots, and low gray clouds fly past. Through the mist a small rowboat appears and six stout men—one with a bottle of rum—load up, then push the overloaded boat off the beach.

“They can’t be going fishing in that,” I remark to Alexander, my college professor/driver.

He shouts the question to the man retrieving an empty net.

“Not fishing,” the man replies. “It’s Sunday. They’re going to the cockfights, across the bay.

I’m on a mission for fish. A good friend’s abuela (grandmother) suffers from high cholesterol and on doctor’s orders shouldn’t eat meat. Scanning the fleet of small craft moored in the harbor, and then at the angry seas, I decide a trip offshore is not in the cards.

Gathered under a sculptured sailfish on the cliff overlooking the storm tossed bay, a group of landlocked fisherman watch our cars approach.

“We need to buy some fish,” Alexander calls out.

The request sends the men scurrying. Moments later they appear with an assortment of grouper, snapper, dolphin and even a few mullet, all hard frozen.

“We caught these yesterday, before the winds.” one man says. “The fishing was very strong before the weather.”

“There have been a lot of yellowfin tuna,” another adds. “But they go to the big hotels in Guadalavaca.”

Late fall is also big marlin, and wahoo time. Snapper and grouper—year round.

Off to the west, contrasting sharply with the ancient cannons and old fort remnants, six modern blade turbines whirl in the brisk wind, white against the gray clouds. One fisherman explains they generate electricity and were built by the Chinese.

I finally convince Alexander to drive his prized Hyundai down a sharp rocked road along the cliff for a closer look.

On the edge of the limestone shoreline the remains of a hulking freighter sits rusting and broken, thrown against the rocks by a hurricane some years back.

A weatherworn man emerges from a tin and stick shack, his skinny dog following close. When asked about the rusting mass of metal in the middle of his oceanfront view he explains. “The hurricane took my fishing boat, but left me this wreck,” he says. “I sell a piece of it from time to time to buy food. I miss fishing—but I eat.”

Capt. Phil Thompson is an outdoor writer and author of “97 Miles South” set in Cuba.

Holguin—The Sister City of Santa Fe

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

It’s a bar, a restaurant, a watering hole for ex-pat Canadians and tourist, across from one of Holguin’s scenic town plazas. The languages: German, French, heavily accented English, and a smattering of Russian blend with the constant din of staccato Spanish. After all, this is Cuba. (more…)

Back to the Country

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

After the carnival atmosphere of Trinidad de Cuba, a scenic drive north through the quiet hills is welcome. Once beyond the cities boundaries, the land is sparsely spotted with small shacks, connected to the road by a trail of worn earth and a single power line. Nine kilometers from Lake Zaza—the quaint town of Sancti Spiritus rest along a rocky river. (more…)

Book Review: 97 Miles South by Phillip D. Thompson

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

In his debut novel, 97 Miles South, outdoor writer and regular Coastal Angler Magazine columnist Phil Thompson takes his readers aboard a sixty five foot yacht on its way to Cuba for the annual Marina Hemingway marlin tournament. But this trip ends up being much more that a big fish tournament.

The anglers arrive in Cuba ready both to compete and to enjoy the scenery and people of our island neighbor to the south. Pete, a veteran Cuba hand, ventures out into the countryside with the team’s Cuban fixer Fito to visit friends and make arrangements for the team.  He meets Christina, a beautiful teacher who works as an escort to make ends meet and as the week long tournament progresses, Pete and Christina grow closer. What Pete doesn’t know is that Christina is considered the “property” of a Cuban Army Colonel.

The tournament action and Pete’s relationship heat up as this fast paced novel continues. The anglers battle engine troubles, a strong cold front and ultimately a huge Blue marlin that could win the tournament for them.  The description of the fight for this fish and the aftermath is seriously intense.

The crew returns to the States and Pete plans a risky nighttime run to Cuba to rescue Christina from the Colonel. In this climactic scene, Pete and Christina race the Cubans, the Coast Guard and Homeland Security to try to reach Key West and gain Christina’s freedom.

While giving the readers the action scenes they came for, Mr. Thompson clearly shows the effects of the last 50 years on the Cuban people. Yet, in scenes such as the pig capture and the beautifully described mountain restaurant the crewmembers visit, he shows that even with the decades of privation, the will and humor of the Cuban people cannot be denied.

97 Miles South is filled with enough vivid descriptions of ocean life, rural Cuba and the excitement, camaraderie and wild antics of big time tournament fishing to keep the reader turning pages even when they should be turning out the light to sleep. If you can’t hop on a 65 Hatteras and head south, grab a copy, turn off your phone and make the trip with author Phil Thompson and his crew.

Cienfeugos, City of a Hundred Fires

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

“I hooked a tarpon there,” Native guide Chino brags. “It was bigger than me.”

We’re driving south, through reforested teak groves. Workmen thin the trees, hacking, making charcoal—a dirty back-breaking process. After a few days in the wilderness of the Zapata Swamp, then isolated Lake Hanabanilla, Chino is for a return to civilization.  For me, the transition needs to be gradual. (more…)