Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Silver salmon – King of Fish

July 1st, 2006

 FISH SCALES in the blood', well describes Bob Ritchie, son and grandson of salmon netsmen, and himself still carrying on this traditional occupation.

The sun was shining, the temperature had risen, and I had taken the dogs down to Kinnaber beach, north of Montrose, where they can really stretch their legs, free from any danger of traffic. I love the sea, and should go down to it more often which, perhaps, is why these days are so special.

I found Bob changing a fishing net.  Jumpers' they are called now, and they are simplified versions of the old stake nets that I remember so well as a youngster. Fifty years ago the sandy beaches at St Cyrus, Montrose and Lunan Bay provided work for a small army of fishermen, but the commercial salmon fishing industry is greatly reduced now.

Standing on the cliffs, or the high sand dunes, you would see the arrowhead shapes of the nets poking out into the sea. These were, and still are, the catching chambers which trap the salmon. Fly nets they called the stake nets, locally.

I have memories of the fishermen walking out along the net, like flies on a spider's web, which may account for the local term. With only a footrope, and a handrope to steady themselves, they scooped the salmon out of the water with a long-handled, heavy landing net called a scum net.

The stumps of poles you can see along the tideline, blackened with the sea, are the remnants of these  fixed engines', as they are called in the arcane language of the statutes enacted to regulate the industry. But they were manpower intensive and couldn't survive the need for cost cutting and fiscal efficiency, whereas the jumpers can be managed by just two people.

South of Montrose, at Usan, the Pullar family own the netting rights, and three generations of this fishing dynasty work the nets. The coast line has changed to high cliffs and a rocky, boulder-strewn shore. Here they use bag nets which float permanently in the water. To empty them they must motor out in a salmon coble with its familiar and distinctive high prow.

Go down to the old lime kiln at The Buddon and you'll see the orange buoys and long poles which support the nets in the water. If you're there about half tide you may see the fishermen emptying them of the wild fish.

I know where several cobles are lying forgotten and deteriorating. I can't help thinking that one, at least, should be saved and restored as a memory to the boatbuilding skills and fishing traditions which supported so many men and their families on this part of the north east.

Perhaps there's an opportunity for Angus to lead the way in establishing a museum or heritage centre for the salmon fishing industry!

Written on Saturday, July 1st, 2006 at 3:46 am for Weekly.