Fly Fishing Sri Lanka
In 2012 my wife and I decided to fly to Sri Lanka in order to spend Christmas time and New Years Day at the beach. It was a trip which was not planned in advance. We just wanted to go somewhere were it is warm and where we had not been before. Of course for a real fly fisher the fly rod as well as some fly tying stuff was in my luggage. We were staying in the south west of the island and were travelling every day to see new spots and beaches. We were using tuck tucks as with a car you are not much faster and feeling the fresh air is much better than sitting in a closed air conditioned car. You also grab and smell the country much better.
And what about fly fishing?
What fly fishing is concerned the country and especially this area does not offer any spots being worth to travel to. There might be a few in other regions but if you are used to cristal clear flats like on The Seychelles, the Cuban cayos or other Caribbean destinations you will find Sri Lanka to be a dirty and empty pot. Hundreds of fishing boats are towed up on the beaches and harbours and the few successful fishermen usually stay a week or more offshore to fish around the Maledives as the waters in reachable distance for smaller boats are already emptied. As there is no protected zone, marine park or anything else and everyone can more or less do what he wants without any neccessity to obey rules it is no wonder that the fishing from the shore is more than poor. The waves are also a bit of a problem as they are quite big at most of the spots.
Nevertheless you will recognize many fishermen sitting on thin sticks attached to wooden poles which are placed right in the surf. The fishermen look like birds waiting for their prey to come within reachable distance. They are equipped with branches of 2 m in length and a piece of line and catch fish up to 10 cm in length. They really look very exotic.
After some mornings without success I met a fly fisherman from France. He even fished for a whole week and several hours every day at a spot which looked at least very promising. He only caught one Jack of probably 20 cm. That was all. So I decided to try it offshore. I hired a boat with two „guides“ who fish around the islands all the time. The hire was quite cheap. It cost about Eur 80.- for four hours. Nevertheless even this was finally too much. We could not recognize any bird activity at all and no fish were on the surface. We spotted a huge leather turtle of approximately 2 m in length and a shoal of 15 delphins. My guides thought this would be impressive for me. If you compare that with the huge deplhin shoals in Guatemala it means nothing. We went about 15 km offshore as they said there were also a few sailfish caught there in the last years. Some kilometers offshore I spotted a big palm tree on the surface with many fresh leaves on. A really promising spot with the perfect size for some good Mahi-Mahi, the common dolphing fish(dorado). My first cast brought me a baby dorado of around 50 cm but this was obviously the only fish hiding there. No other fish followed the one on my line which is usually the case if some more dorados are around.
This remained the only catch of the day. So I definitely decided to give it up. The rest of our time in Sri Lanka we spent surfing(Great surf spots!) and looking for wildlife. Especially the water warans were impressive. These sometimes up to 1.8 m long predators live all around the island in the jungle and you will also see other reptiles there. So for the fly fisher I would call this region definitely a no go. Maybe in the area south of Columbo where big rivers meet the sea you might be able to catch some fish, but the water there is dirty and the sight depth is even worse than in the south west. As a fly fishing globe trotter I can only advise you to forget Sri Lanka as a fly fishing destination. I don't want to say that it is impossible to run into a sizeable fish the other day when fishing offshore or spending a lot of time at certain spots fishing with poppers for GTs. Well, maybe you like fishing the lakes ... but the efforts and the time you have to spend for catching serious fish on the fly make Sri Lanka IMHO a fly fishing no go in comparison to other destinations. Even if the government would set up protected areas it would last years for the fish population to recover and I doubt that the people would obey the rules.
Be aware of being cheated
Be careful with the locals there! They are friendly and smile all the time but the majority of the people we were in contact with have also got another side. We are frequent travellers but nowhere in the world we met so many people lying right into your face with a smile than in Sri Lanka. More or less everywhere outside the hotel they tried to cheat us or lied as soon as they opened their mouth. Don’t trust them e.g. by buying any creams with natural herbes from the herbal gardens the tuck tuck drivers want to show you. It is all nothing but a fake as they just sell you cheapest products from the supermarket and even these will be thinned with water or other liquids. You will pay ten times more than necessary. Never tell Tuck Tuck drivers when you are leaving the country. They will do everything for you but you can be sure they will try to muck you the last day you are there. And pay the driver when you get in the tuck-tuck because when he drops you he will probably say a totally different and of course more expensive prize. If you start arguing then he will call other tuck-tuck drivers or even the police. Be also aware that if you hire a taxi it can happen that you are picked up in the car they showed you first but after driving a kilometer they will find some reason to stop to finally let you know that you have to move on with another(older) car now. These are only a few things that happened to us.
As a tourist you just don't feel nice if you give tips, treat the locals with respect and friendliness but are constantly mucked even by those you would never think them to be like that.
The surfing(!!!), the local food and the national parks are great but IMHO these are the only good things to mention about Sri Lanka at all. I will probably never visit this country again at least definitely not for fly fishing. For surfing, well that's another story ...