Ask the Guide: Best Flies for Cuba
Words + Photos by: Josh Thelin

On a recent trip to Cuba, after a week of fishing, I asked my guide Frankie what his favorite flies were for the areas we were in. The fishing was over mixed flats (both white sand and turtle grass) as well as deeper channels for tarpon. We covered the area from Cayo Largo to Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth). With the primary target species of Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon, here are the ones that made his list:

Best Flies for Cuba Fly Fishing


  • Strong Arm Crab - This was the first crab pattern he asked for when going through our fly boxes. Originally out of the Keys, and now also a popular pattern throughout Cuba and Belize for Permit, it's a variation of a Merkin but with a prominent claw made from chenille. Similar in idea to a "fleeing crab."
  • Avalon Very particular with this one. It had to be the original. Most of the mass produced versions of this fly Frankie did not like as their tails/rubber legs were not of proper length and the proportions of the rabbit strips usually were off.
  • Spawning Shrimp - This was the tried-and-true all a-rounder. Whether it was for permit or bonefish, our guide had a lot of confidence in this fly. We rarely saw a refusal with the versions that we tied/brought down. Mine were all tied on #4 & mostly #6 hooks. Most of the ones I fished and liked were tied on the #6 AHREX Salt Jig (SA254) hook. Now my favorite hook for larger shrimp flies. Below is a example of one I tied before the trip that worked well.
Cuba Spawning Shrimp Fly Pattern


  • Spawning Shrimp - see above
  • Webster's Shrouser - This got the attention of Frankie quickly. As we went through our fly boxes and I pulled these out, they said "tie that one on!" The Shrouser stayed on for most deeper water situations as I only had them tied (by Joe) on smaller lead eyes. But when we used them, they worked. Although no permit were caught on it, Frankie said that it would be ideal for them down there as well. So I left him a few in hopes of a photo soon. (This is the fly that's hanging out of the bonefish's mouth in the picture above)
  • Squimps - A popular bonefish fly also in Belize, the Squimp was a requested pattern by our guide.


  • Black/Purple - Mostly Tarpon Bunny and Stu Ape style Tarpon patterns. I tied all of mine on 1/0 & 2/0 Gamakatsu SC17 hooks.
  • Tarpon Toad - Both in black/purple & lighter/chartreuse colors.
  • Gamechanger - Worked great on channel tarpon with sinking lines. Due to weight when wet, they can sometimes be a little sloppy for sight casting on flats.
  • EP Peanut Butter - Also a preferred snook fly for the location
  • Mini Dragon Tails - With the mini tails, not the regular Magnums. These can be the ticket down there and give the fish another "look" if you think they aren't responding to other patterns.
Best Flies for Cuba Fly Fishing

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