Series 3 - Episode 7: Cuba

Episode 7: Cuba

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Robson starts his Cuban adventure in Havana, where he elects to stay in the famous Nacional Hotel – past host to such legends as Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Ant and Dec. His first fishing expedition of the trip takes him to the Malecón, an esplanade stretching alongside the city's coastline. Joining a number of locals fishing for their dinner, Robson clambers onto the sea wall and casts his line – but is soon hit with the first of many waves. "This is like fishing in a washing machine!" he cries.

Having landed just a solitary sardine from the Malecón, Robson moves on to the watery wilderness that makes up much of Cuba. An hour’s drive south-east takes him to the Rio Hatiguanico, one of the country’s biggest rivers, where he hopes to catch the elusive tarpon. Renowned for their ability to jump high out of the water, these fish are notoriously tough to land. To increase his chances of success, Robson hooks up with local guides Lazaro and Philippe and journeys up river.

Before long, Robson gets his first tarpon bite. True to form, however, the slippery fish shakes free of the hook. The Geordie tries again, but the same things happens. "Just how many tarpon am I going to hook and lose today?" he asks. "This is torture!"

In fact, Robson manages to miss a tarpon some twelve times, before eventually taking on the advice of his guides and mastering the art. When he finally brings in his quarry, he is elated. “How about that for a beautiful-looking fish!” he exclaims. The experts are pleased for their guest’s success, but clearly less impressed with his histrionics. "What a drama queen!" observes Philippe.

After another drive through the beautiful Cuban countryside, Robson arrives at his next angling destination – the remote island of Cayo Romano at the north-east of the country. Sparsely populated and rarely fished, these waters offer excellent angling opportunities. Robson’s prey on this occasion is the fast and elusive bone fish. With expert guide Eddie Valdez by his side, it is not long before Robson catches his first glimpse of the bone fish.

Owing to the animal’s sensitivity to noise, the anglers turn off the boat’s engine and step out into the shallow waters. Robson gets his first bite, but is unprepared for the fish’s incredible speed. It
races away, taking all of Robson’s line with it. "I've never known anything like this," he says. "That fish went off like a torpedo!" Armed with a bigger reel, the Geordie lad tries again, and this time is ready for the fight. After a ten-minute struggle, Robson brings in his first bone fish. "Now I know why every angler in the world talks about this species," he reflects.

Having landed some impressive game fish, Robson’s next expedition is all about food. He hooks up with a pair of local fishermen at Trinidad marina and heads out to a nearby reef. Owing to the strict control of boats in this area, the seas are reported to be very rich with fish. Just minutes into the trip, Robson learns that the rumours are true. He lands a large barracuda, then pulls in another four within minutes. "Blimey, that didn’t take long!" he says. To vary his catch, he then changes tactics – and has soon netted a colourful grouper. "That is the best-tasting fish in Cuba!" he enthuses.

Back on dry land, Robson enjoys the fruits of his labour, settling down to a large dinner of fish and chips – Cuban style – in a pretty town square. But he will need to make the most of the peace and quiet, since the following day brings with it the toughest challenge of the trip. Before returning to Blighty, Robson intends to catch a true colossus of the Cuban seas – the giant tarpon.

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