Polhena Beach
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The Stilt Fishermen
Stilt fishing is a tradition on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The fishermen sit on a cross bar called a petta that tied to a vertical pole driven into the coral reef. The men fish with either rods or just string. The catch is either a variety of spotted herring or small mackerel. There are groups of fishermen who will display their skills for tourists….for a tip, of course. I was determined to find the *real* locals who do this for their livelihood. I got my chance in a remote stretch of beach called Polhena Beach, located just a short distance from the town of Matara. I had gone swimming at Polhena in the morning and spotted the stilts in the water. Call me weird, but I was excited to see them! You see, I grew up in a fishing family so anywhere I travel where I get to either fish or watch people fishing, I am there! Later that day, I came back to the same spot in hopes that there would be fishermen there. Luck was on my side - I met up with a group of eight anglers just before sun set. As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, one by one they waded into the water, climbed atop the stilts, and started fishing. They weren’t sitting far from shore so I easily could watch them. A flick of the rod to drop the line and when a nibble was felt, a flick of the wrist to hook the fish and bring up the line. A quick twist to remove the fish from the line and to drop it into the sack. Night fell quickly and before I knew it, I had to leave them behind.
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