Saturday, May 4, 2013

Megan Boyd - Kiss the Water Movie


Movie poster from Kiss the Water, Eric Steel
Have you ever noticed the lack of fly tying in popular media? Fly Fishing...sure.  Of course fly fishing images are main stream. Just watch ESPN for 30 minutes and a male enhancement ad will come on and you will see a grey haired gentleman heaving a 10 weight tarpon rod with a red and white bobber on a trout stream. Nice. But the only fly tying reference I can remember is in the movie Who's Harry Crumb? (Isn't that a marabou muddler?).  So I had to go over to the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend and watch a new documentary about Scotland's fly tier Megan Boyd, called Kiss the Water.

Megan, born 1915, lived in Brora and  in the village of Kintradwell, Scotland, and tied full dress salmon flies for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, under gas light as her home did not have electricity, or running water, or telephone.  Her flies were beautiful, and she tied salmon flies because she thought they were pretty, and often felt bad that they were used to kill salmon.  She tied flies for her all those who visited her house, as well as for Prince Charles, and was awarded the British Empire Medal for her flies.  But she declined to go to the ceremony in London to collect her honor because she wondered who would look after her dog Patches.

The movie captured the beautiful emptiness of the Scottish countryside.  My wife observed that anyone can cast a fly rod in a river that has no trees. I really like that the movie recorded the sound of fly tying,  the sound that the hook makes when you are wrapping thread around it that is as pleasing to a fly tier as the pen on paper must be to the writer, although as pleasing to spouses as the sound of a dentist drill. 


But things came winding down for Megan in the 1980's as her eye sight began to fail, and also with the rise of hair winged salmon flies, like the undertaker, her superior abilities were no longer needed.  No more marrying of feather strips, or carefully seating the wingbutts on the hook shank so they don't roll.  The hairwing flies can be tied very quickly, cheaply, and without much training or talent. 

Her flies now sell for thousands, and are framed under glass, and are kept in either museums, such as the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, or in the hands of collectors.  I am not sure that this would have pleased her because even though it is nice to have your work appreciated, she believed that her flies were meant to be fished.