Photo: Steve McCurry
Stilt fishing is a dying art that is threatened by the very fact that it is so unobtrusive and therefore extremely picturesque: tourists visiting the area get attracted by the sight of the stilt fishermen, stay close by, bathe in the sea, in short, do all the things the fishermen have been trying to avoid for decades – namely disturb the fish.
Photo: James Gordon
This is no ordinary fishing, there might be several methods of catching a fish but this one is mind-boggling. Fishermen in Sri Lanka use stilts to catch a fish. Yes, stilt fishing is an old tradition practiced by around 500 fishing families in Galle, in southwestern-most Sri Lanka, especially around the towns of Kathaluwa and Ahangama.
It had disappeared after the 2004 tsunami that struck Sri Lanka and other countries bordering the Indian Ocean, but resumed after things got back to normal. Its a beautiful sight looking at fishermen balancing on a thin plank, but at the same time its tough too. All this effort and toiling only to preserve their old custom, wonderful!
They usually fish during sunset, noon and sunrise, with each one taking their elevated position and balancing about 2 metres above the water. As you can see in the picture below, there is a vertical pole engrafted into the sea bed, attached to it is a cross bar, called petta, on which the fishermen do the balancing act.