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 collection.

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

First Nations.

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,” said Eileen.

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”, said Eileen.

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 son.

 

“The Bogdan”

 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.

Eileen Mary Murphy

 

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.”

Eileen’s favourite 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.

 

Bally Shannon 
Head: Black
Tag: Silver twist and blue floss
Tail:  Golden Pheasant Crest and Indian Crow
Butt:   Black Ostrich herl
Body:  Hot orange floss
Rib:  Oval silver tinsel
Hackle: Magenta saddle
Throat:  Blue saddle hackle
Wing:   White tipped turkey tail, Speckled Bustard, Argus Pheasant, Red, Yellow and Blue Turkey and Bronze Mallard
Sides:  Pintail
Cheeks:  Jungle Cock
Topping: Golden Pheasant Crest