Cuba and Flat Billed Trucker Hats by Mark Usyk

For the past couple months now I haven’t been able to pick up a fishing magazine without finding an article inside about fly fishing the flats in Cuba. Like flat billed trucker hats giving anglers street credit on the river, Cuba seems to be the next big thing in flats fly fishing. All these years I thought it was the cigars we wanted. Who knew?

Now maybe I’m just a little jealous because I’m 99% sure I’ll never experience it. Or maybe it’s that I can see the writing on the wall. A place that was cut off from us, untouchable, making it even more desirable, is in store for a world of change in my eyes. Once the embargo is lifted it’s going to be an extreme fast forward from 1959 to the present. The streets, stuck in a time warp filled with old American cars will become modern, many of the cars scooped up by collectors. The crumbling ancient architecture will be replaced by new high rise hotels losing all the old world charm, and tourists will flock to the country turning it into just another destination filled with t-shirt vendors and selfie sticks.

But the magazines are doing a wonderful job of selling it as the greatest flats destination on the planet, simply because you couldn’t do it before, and because they want to be able to say “We were there and told you it was great when it still was, before we wrote this article about how it has now been oversold and ruined. But still, I’m like everyone else, I’d love to check it out while it’s still a little harder to hire a guide than simply typing it into the Google search bar. So to deflect the obvious fact that it’ll never happen, I try to counter their all-knowing editorial expertise found on their smooth and shiny pages.

They’re like “Best Flats fishing in the world!”

I’m like “It’s hot here now, and the creek out back is only knee deep or less in some places and crystal clear. If I tip my head so that the bill of my hat blocks out the trees on the other side it’s just like looking at a flat.”

They’re like “Bone Fish, Permit, and Tarpon!”

I’m like “There’s Suckers, Creek Chubs, and Fall Fish in the creek. They’re bottom feeders just like Bone Fish. Hell, the Fall Fish even has big ol’ silver scales and I can sight fish to them in these clear low conditions blocking the view of the trees with the bill of my hat. This is just as good as Cuba.”

They’re like “Hemingway’s home!”

I’m like (with a sigh not quite admitting defeat) “Well, everyone has to live somewhere.”

They’re like “It’s a warm, tropical place, with sprawling clear turquoise and white salt flats and guides poling you to the fish in the old ways in a wooden boat. Knowledge and determination mixed with a smidge of hope take the place of the cold and lifeless GPS to find your dream fish.”

I’m like “Fine. Screw you. You win.”

There’s always that slim chance that I could get there before it’s all something totally different, I could probably scrape enough money out of our bank accounts to make the trip, but scrape would be the key word. And after the last penny was picked up off the floor in my 6yr olds room from out of the carnage of the shattered green ceramic dinosaur bank, I’d have to wait for little league season to come to an end and then quit my job for the time to make the trip. At least one of those is likely to happen.

Hemingway had his Cuban home when he penned “The Old Man and the Sea” and I can’t hold that against him. I guess I have my little fly fishing “man cave” as everyone seems to refer to it, with a view of the creek out back, presently just shimmers of light through the fully green trees of summer now blocking my view. I suppose, circumstances what they are, that I’ll have to write my masterpiece using the inspiration I have at hand, although I don’t know that a book about an Upstate New York guy fighting a creek chub for three days in a skinny creek through the center of town will have quite the powerful meaning behind it. But who knows, it could gain one of those cult followings. Damn you Cuba.