Eileen Mary Murphy
1936 – 2002
“Women tie flies
too”, said Eileen Murphy. She should know, she did it, and did it well.
“Every time I open a book or
paper and read a story about a fly tier, it’s always a man,” Murphy said.
“It’s about time people recognized that there are women who tie flies too.”
Anyone who could walk into Eileen’s home in Chatham could
never doubt her. The fly-tying room she had was dominated with drawers filled
with brightly colored feathers, yarns, sparkling tinsels and animal hair. Even
Eileen seemed amazed when she talked about the variety and value of her
Eileen Mary Murphy was
born in Chatham, New Brunswick on July 31, 1936.
She was the daughter of
the late Rose Emma (Comeau), and Frank Ryan.
Eileen lived all her
life in the Miramichi.
For 27 years she was
Pastoral Assistant and Religious Coordinator for Burnt Church
Eileen Murphy in 1994
Eileen first took up
fly tying in 1987. “Our pastor went away to take a Native Religious Studies
Course for five or six months and Father Walter Lynch came in to replace him.
Father Lynch was also a fly tier. I was so taken with his collection of
neatly manufactured fishing flies. I found myself wandering up to his workroom
while he was away. I tried to copy his work. I did this by looking at the
hook and trying to tie the same thing. Everything went wrong, but there was
something within me that would not let me stop. I just had to learn how it
was done”, said Eileen.
Eileen asked the
housekeeper to warn her when Father Lynch returned to the house so she could
destroy the evidence of her struggles. When the housekeeper hollered Eileen
would take everything she was working on and burn it. When she thought about
it later she felt really bad because she realizes she wasted a lot of valuable
material. “He must have wondered what was happening to his fly tying
material. But I didn’t know Father Lynch well enough to ask him to teach me,”
Five months later
Father Lynch moved to a new church in Kingsclear, New Brunswick. It was a
year later before Eileen got to visit the rectory on business. She found her
visits to the rectory were becoming more frequent and one day she got up the
nerve to say: “Father, I’ve always had a burning desire to learn and I want to
learn how to tie flies.”
Father Lynch told me
to go and watch him tie and for the next two years I watched over his shoulder
as he showed me how to tie the thread, fabrics, fur and feathers to a hook”,
Eileen always gave
thanks to Rev. Walter Lynch, whom she considered a fine gentleman and
fisherman friend. He taught her patiently to tie flies and to learn the
secret of good materials, making this love and passion for the art of fly
tying a great treasured gift.
Eileen found that the
most difficult thing in fly tying was to get a perfect balance in the body,
wing, crest and throat. She soon learned that tying flies was not a craft,
but an art.
Eileen Murphy became
an accomplished artist. She could complete a small hair wing fly in 5 to 10
minutes and tied hundreds of them each year. Through the 1990s she
concentrated on tying the fully dressed patterns.
“Tying the fully
dressed patterns is much more difficult and precise. A wing that looks like
it contains a single feather may actually contain many separate strands from
different feathers”, said Eileen.
Eileen sold her flies
in local stores and at area fishing camps. Profits from her sales went to
support third world missions. She felt there was certain symmetry in her work
– helping others with her gift and fishing with her own flies. “Knowing your
hands made a beautiful creation to catch a beautiful fish in God’s creation is
a wonderful feeling,” said Eileen.
Eileen believed a fly
tier can be as creative as far as the imagination will allow them to be.
There’s nothing wrong with creating new patterns, or even experimenting with
the old ones. Salmon flies make wonderful gifts, whether given as a broach, in
the form of jewellery, or designed to commemorate a special event. For
instance, when the Murphy’s 17-year old cat died, Eileen saved some of the
cat’s fur to make a commemorative framed fly for each of her five children.
By doing this, they could always keep a part of the pet they loved with them.
Eileen’s framed and
fully dressed salmon flies have travelled many miles in the form of gifts and
presentation. In the summer of 1996 the drama class from James M. Hill High
School, Miramichi East, performed in Japan. They took with them a pair of
framed salmon flies, “The Green Highlander” she tied as both the hair wing and
fully dressed versions. The drama class presented them to the Emperor of
Japan as a gift from Canada. Her fully dressed salmon flies have also been
presented and displayed in Ireland.
She had the privilege
of tying the “Bogdan Fly”, in honour of Stan Bogdan, world famous owner and
creator of the Bogdan Reel. Arthur Taylor, from Lincoln, Maine, who is an
artist and friend of Stan Bodgon, originated the fly. In 1996 there was a
celebration held at the Miramichi Inn with many friends and fisher persons of
Stan throughout the years attending. Eileen wrote a poem in honour of Mr.
Bogdan who passed his life-long art of building the Bogdan reel over to his
There’s Stan the Man
who thrills crowds with the ball.
To hit that home run is
no deal at all.
But the Stan that I
speak of, we all know, and feel,
Is the man with the mind
of that great Bogdan Reel.
First of all, welcome.
Bonjour. How ya doin’.
We wanted to meet you
and hear what was stewin.
To talk of the fishin’,
and make no great fuss,
Cuz after this evening
your just one of us.
Now, the news of your
visit was great to the ear,
And the folks all said
we had nothing to fear.
He’s been here before,
he’s quite a nice guy,
So I sat myself down and
tied you this fly.
The Bogdan’s the name so
it speaks for itself.
I’m sure its not one
that will sit on the shelf.
There’s a story behind
it, Art Taylor’d confess,
But the fly that Art
tied was really a mess.
So the sound of that
Bogdan and the tension just right.
Bang! There’s a salmon,
now starts the fight.
The moment is magic,
time stops with that spin.
Come on you old Bogdan,
bring this guy in.
Well, the reels, and the
rods they all have their price.
It’s the people we meet
that make life good and nice.
So Stan as you pass it
all on to your son,
Here’s to the Bogdan,
your wars really won.
There’s a little to add
to this poem we all feel.
It’s to those who
possess the great Bogdan Reel.
Goes along with the
quote I heard Arthur say.
Hey there! Did you
fondle your Bogdan today?
Eileen’s fully dressed
salmon flies have also been presented under glass domes and as broach pins.
For a number of years they have been displayed at the Saddler Restaurant,
Miramichi. These presentations have travelled to Ireland, Switzerland, Peru,
and many places across Canada. A framed “Silver Doctor” hair-wing and fully
dressed versions hang in the lobby of the new and beautiful Rod Inn, on the
Miramichi. She donated the work of art with pride to hang there for many
years to come.
Over the years Eileen
had the opportunity to learn fly tying from renowned fly tiers such as Warren
Duncan and Ron Alcott. She believed that Warren Duncan is one of the best fly
tiers in Canada.
In 1990, Eileen
started fly-fishing, and in 1991 she caught her first grilse on the Dungarvon
River. She caught the fish with a “Green Butt Black Bear” she tied herself.
She couldn’t forget the wonderful feeling she got from hooking and landing
that fish. After Eileen took up angling she would take advantage of every
opportunity to go fishing, or to take in fishing conferences. She attended
many conventions in Boston, and a number of conclaves on the St. Mary’s River
in Nova Scotia. She fished in Ireland, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, throughout
Maine and Quebec. Her dream was to fish in Russia one-day. “I’ve read about
fishing in Russia now that it’s open to the world, and they say the fishing is
fabulous. I know people who’ve gone and they came back with the most
remarkable stories. It would also be nice to give one of my flies to Boris
Yeltsin,” said Eileen.
Eileen believed she
would be welcomed to the fishing fraternity in Russia, just as she had been
everywhere else. She’s found other fishermen very encouraging. In fact, she
found them rather pleased to see a woman fishing. She sensed little
difference between men and women when standing in the rushing water of a
gravel-bottomed river, casting a line over pristine water. In the fishing
world she was never referred to as Eileen Murphy, most everyone who knew her
referred to her as “Murph.”
hair-wing fly was the “Green Butt Black Bear”, and her favourite fully dressed
fly is the “Bally Shannon.”
Eileen Murphy passed
away on Saturday, September 7, 2002.
Silver twist and blue floss
Golden Pheasant Crest and Indian Crow
Black Ostrich herl
Hot orange floss
Oval silver tinsel
Blue saddle hackle
White tipped turkey tail, Speckled Bustard, Argus Pheasant, Red, Yellow
and Blue Turkey and Bronze Mallard
Golden Pheasant Crest