HE was a smart advertising executive enjoying an expense-account lifestyle in London but one day he just threw it all in the air and went off to be a fisherman on the Cromarty Firth.

Not just any old fishing, because George Chamier was a practitioner of the ancient art of net and coble fishing, a skill that is no longer practised and indeed is banned in the Firth.

The men who knew this way of fishing are no longer young, and there is every risk of their centuries-old techniques dying with them.

It’s an ancient and environmentally friendly method of catching salmon, by spotting them in the water and taking them with “net and coble”, the latter being a flat-bottomed boat.

Chamier is now telling the story of his life and his love of fishing in his book With Net And Coble: A Salmon Fisher On The Cromarty Firth. It tells how Chamier was partly brought up in Ross-shire and educated at Eton and the universities of Cambridge and Lancaster.

He told The Sunday National: “I was a schoolboy when I first went to the fishing – sweep-netting on the Cromarty Firth.

“As the ‘loon’ – a youngster taken on for a month at the height of the season – I learned the ancient art of net and coble fishing, and in particular the skill of spotting salmon in the water, from James ‘Buller’ Black, who’d been taught by his grandfather.

“Then I left Scotland for seven years, working in advertising in London and Amsterdam. For a young man, expense-account lunches and the gossip in the Coach and Horses were fun. But the pull of the Firth was always there.

“Drawn by the idea of a self-sufficient rural life, this was the 70s after all, my wife and I moved back to Ross-shire and I took up the fishing again."

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Chamier spent 12 years on the Firth: “These were our salad days – salmon plentiful, prices good, and we lived the life to the full: long hours at the shore, hip flask and tobacco at hand, the excitement of big catches, the craic at the fishing bothy with friends and fellow fishers, and always the birds of the firth and in the water ‘Henry’ the seal.

“But the wild salmon was in trouble. Post-1990 catches dwindled and fishing stations closed. I became a teacher, and then a writer/editor but, still addicted, continued fishing every summer in the holidays.”

Chamier retired as Head of History at Bradfield College in 2005 and now lives in London, working as a tutor and editor.

He said: “Three years ago, Marine Scotland declared the firth a ‘mandatory catch and release zone’ – we could catch fish but would have to put them back. So at last I retired the boat and net, and did what I’d always promised to do – wrote a book about it.”

Looking back on his life Chamier agrees with a friend’s verdict: “‘The best job I ever had’ – that’s what my first mate and best pal Eddie Scott calls the salmon fishing. I’ve had a few jobs in my time – advertising, gardening, teaching, writing, copy-editing – but I agree with Eddie, the fishing was head and shoulders above the rest.”

George Chamier, With Net and Coble; a salmon fisher on the Cromarty Firth is published by Pen & Sword Books on October 30.