Murphy, Eileen

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                                                       EILEEN MURPHY
                                            Women tie flies for fishing too
                                                     By Joanne Cadogan

CHATHAM – Women tie flies for fishing too, says Eileen Murphy. She should know; she does it. “Every time I open a paper and read a story about a fly tier, it’s always a man,” Murphy said in an interview at her home. It’s about time people recognized there are women who tie flies and fly fish too.”

No one could walk into Murphy’s Chatham home and doubt it. One small room off the kitchen is devoted to her passion for tying hairwing and featherwing flies. The room is dominated by drawers full of brightly colored feathers, yarns, sparkling streamers and animal hair.

Murphy seems almost amazed herself as she takes in the variety and value of her collection. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather buy tying materials than a new dress,” she said, settling into her workbench.

                                          Murphy first took up fly tying in 1987.

“I work in religious education with native people and at the time also I was working at St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Bartibogue. 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. He tied flies.”

Murphy was so taken with his collection of neatly manufactured fishing flies that she would often wander up to his work room while he was away and try her hand at copying his work. “I did it just by looking at the hook and trying to tie things to it. Everything went wrong, but something within me still wanted to learn.”

Murphy asked the housekeeper to warn her when Lynch returned to the house so she could destroy the evidence of her struggles. “When she hollered I took everything I was working on and burned it. I feel quite badly about it now because I realize I wasted a lot of valuable material. He must have wondered what was happening to it, but I didn’t know him well enough to ask him to teach me.”

After five months, Father Lynch moved to a new church. Murphy didn’t see him until a year later when he was posted to Kingsclear, a rectory she visited often on business.

“One day I finally 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.’ He said, ‘Come on and watch.’” For the next two years Murphy watched over Lynch’s shoulder as he showed her how to attach thread, fabric, fur and feathers to a hook.

“The most difficult thing is getting that perfect balance in the body, wing, crest and throat,” Murphy said. “I discovered this is not a craft. It’s an art.”

Since then, Murphy has become an accomplished artist. Today she can complete a small hairwing fly in 5 to 10 minutes and ties hundreds in a year.

“I’m beginning to learn to tie the feather wings. That’s much more difficult and precise. A wing that looks like it contains a single feather may actually contain many separate strands from different feathers.”

Murphy sells her flies in local stores and at area fishing camps. Profits from her sales support third world missions. She feels there’s a certain symmetry in her work – helping others with her work and fishing with her own flies. “Knowing your hands made this beautiful part of creation to catch the most beautiful fish in God’s creation. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

                                              Dungarvon Murphy’s favorite river

Not long after Eileen Murphy took up fly tying, she decided to try her hand at fly fishing.

“I started fishing in 1990. I caught my first grilse on the Dungarvon River in 1991 with a Black Bear Green Butt I tied. It was a wonderful feeling.

Murphy’s taken every opportunity she’s been given to go fishing, or to a fishing conference, since she took up the sport. “I’ve gone to many conventions in Boston and to a salmon conclave on St. Mary’s River in Nova Scotia. I’ve had a chance to learn from Warren Duncan of Saint John, who is one of the best known fly tiers in the country. I’ve also learned from Rom Alcott.”

Murphy has fished in Ireland, Nova Scotia, throughout Maine and Quebec, and is planning a fishing trip to Newfoundland this summer. Her dream is to one day fish in Russia. “I’ve read about the 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’ve come back with the most remarkable stories. It would be nice to have the chance to give one of my flies to Boris Yeltsin.”

Murphy believes she would be welcomed to the fishing fraternity in Russia, just as she has been everywhere else. “I’ve found other fishermen very encouraging. In fact, they seem quite pleased to see a woman fishing.”

The difference between men and women seems small when standing in a rushing gravel bottomed river, casting a line out over pristine water. “In the fishing world, I’m never Eileen Murphy,” she said. “When the phone rings, it’s always, ‘Hi, Murph. Would you like to go fishing?’”

The answer is always yes.

Source: Miramichi Leader Weekend – May 13, 1994

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