Qatar is a well-kept secret. It's a great place to live but, more importantly, it's a great place to fish. We have outlined a few of the best places for saltwater fly-fishing in Qatar below.
When you are not fishing, unusual things happen Qatar. Just ask boxing legend Manny Pacquiao who had to be rescued by security when he got mobbed by fans whilst shopping in Doha's City Centre Mall. (Since when does someone that famous do their own shopping?) He should have seen it coming - half the workforce in Qatar is from the Philippines. But things get stranger than that. Manny was here to present an award at the Amateur Boxing Association world final and at least he had a demonstrable reason to be in the country. Ricky Martin had no such excuse, or at least no such excuse anyone was aware of. He had less reason still to be wondering around in Qatari national dress. If he thought nobody would recognise him he was dead wrong. Ricky spotters were out in force and Twitter and Facebook flared up with photos of him trying unsuccessfully to blend in all over town.
Qatar has a reputation for being a strict Muslim country but it doesn't feel like it as you travel around Doha. Woman teeter on high heels. Hotels are awash with booze and it is home to liberal think tanks and western universities. There are bars and restaurants all over Doha and it can be a great night out. Acclaimed restaurant Nobu opened to a fanfare in 2015 and Robert De Niro, one of the owners, turned up for the first night. It was $300 a plate to go to the event and those that stumped up the cash weren't disappointed. De Niro got drunk and spent the night chatting at peoples' tables.
Qatar is a peninsula sticking out into the Gulf and so is almost completely surrounded by water. Most of the coast is shallow, shelving beach which is good for fly fishing. If you are sticking to the fly you are most likely to catch needlefish, fraska and queen fish but if you switch tackle you can get barracuda, kingfish, grouper and many others. If you go to the fish counter in any supermarket in town you will see the range of fish caught commercially in local waters - everything from tuna and Kingfish to snapper and grouper.
Blue crabs are common in the mangroves to the north of the country and people go out at night to catch them. If stumbling about in the dark up to your knees in water full of crabs isn't your idea of a night out you can also buy them cheaply from the supermarket. If you can face an early start on Friday morning the fish market is a good way to see what is being caught locally. It's on the Corniche next to the Museum of Islamic Art on the opposite side from the Sheraton.
The landscape in Qatar can appear harsh but in the south are rolling sand dunes which reach down to the water giving an otherworldly feel. In the north, it is more like scrubland than desert, with a range of low-level vegetation and mangroves by the ocean. If you go and you feel like spinning or bait fishing from a boat get in touch with the Qatar Sea Angling Association (http://www.qsaa.net/) who will be happy to point you in the direction of Kingfish, Barracuda, Queen Fish, Humour (Grouper) and the rest. If you are in the market for the nobler art of flyfishing then read on.
The corniche is a great place to start. You can park your family in the 24-hour Costa and have the most easily accessible saltwater fly fishing of your life. Just watch your back cast as there will be people wandering up and down behind you. You can catch fish anywhere along the corniche from the Sheraton Hotel to the Museum of Islamic Art. If you walk along the breakwater, rod in one hand latte in the other, you will be high enough to see the fish. When you see one of the big needles which cruise the shallows put down your coffee and have a cast. The waters along the corniche are full of fish and as long as you are fishing a rising tide you have a good chance. There are big needlefish, reasonable queenies and fraska. On Friday you will see migrant workers often fishing with little more than a piece of string. It can be not just their sole recreational activity but also a chance for them to get something decent to eat. I usually give whatever I catch to one of those guys (like the chap below).
Semaisma / Sumaysmah
Semaisma is about 20 minutes north of Doha on Qatar's east coast. Drive north from Doha on the Lusail City road and you'll start to see signs. The beach is divided in half by a stone pier which is used to launch jet skis and boats. The best place is to the right of the pier (as you look out to sea) towards the channel which has been cut for the boats. The water is shallow and gently shelving and in most tides you can wade all the way out. As you wade you often see shoals of baitfish scattering in front of you. If you fish across the boating channel watch your step as it drops sharply and be prepared to share some of your catch with the barracuda (I assume, I have never had a good look at them) which dart out of the channel. Small white flies and poppers seem to work well here and you can expect to catch Queen Fish, Needle Fish, Half Beaks and Fraska (bass).
Zakreet is a large lagoon on the west coast which is favoured by kite-boarders. Although it looks like it might be a good spot I have fished there a number of times and had a good snorkel about and I haven't seen much for the fly fisherman. To have success in Zakreet you should try going off-road, past Film City towards the mouth of the lagoon. Here most species can be caught but the conditions are better suited to guys using bait. Fuwairit Fuwairit has some great saltwater fly fishing. The best place is the southern tip of the beach where there is a mixture of sand and coral
Fuwairit has some great saltwater fly fishing. The best place is the southern tip of the beach where there is a mixture of sand and coral bombies. You access the beach to the north and drive south along it. Most weekends it is lined by SUVs and people having BBQs and playing in the water. When you get towards the southern tip of the beach you will see a lagoon on your right which is fringed with mangroves. Park as close to the tip as you can (remember the tide will come in...) and wade out amongst the bombies. You will need to wear something on your feet to protect from the coral and sea urchins. If you get the right conditions the water will be a crystal clear aquamarine and even blind casting you can catch fish at a rate of 20 an hour. There are Fraska, Wrasse and Queenfish amongst others. The second photo below was my failed attempt to take the baby on her first fishing expedition.
I have had most success with the flies below.