Twitter Update

Twitter Update (Twitter Logo)

Courtesy of Twitter

Today we’re excited to announce a Twitter update.

After a long hiatus with our earlier (soon to be closed) Twitter account, we are now re-launching Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada on Twitter!

We have a new Twitter account and ‘handle’. You can find us on Twitter @CanadaPHWFF.

Be sure to follow us as we Tweet about our program activities for veterans, fly fishing, fly tying and lots of other interesting news!

You will also be able to see our Tweets right here on the front page of our website.

Looking forward to Tweeting with you!

‘Kiss The Water’: The Art of Megan Boyd

Kiss The Water

Post by Karen Grant

Until I met a fisherman whose hobby it is, I was unaware that there was an art to tying flies. When I was younger, I had occasionally accompanied my father on short afternoon fishing trips, but these were simple affairs and worms were the bait: we didn’t use the sometimes garish and shiny plastic lures that are so prevalent in shops today.

So it came as quite a surprise to discover that flies can be made by hand, in a delicate, intricate process, and that they can be colourful – even beautiful – when created from actual patterns painstakingly developed over time. If you’ve never seen a fly tying desk, replete with bobbins of brightly-hued yarn and strewn with pieces of deer hair and other natural materials, it’s quite the sight to behold. It is a world of creativity that might not spring to mind when you think of crafting, but one which is a passion for those who tie flies, and a world about which they are both protective and possessive.

In the Scottish Highlands there is a beautiful, but bleak, town called Brora, where the weather can change in the blink of an eye. In 1918, a little girl called Megan Boyd was brought by her father from England, with the rest of the family, to live in Brora because he had been appointed as a river keeper to a private estate.

Growing up in such a small and remote place may not be for everyone, but Megan seemed to like the peace and solitude it afforded her over the more than 53 years she actually lived in the area. By choice, her adult home was a small, rustic cottage, with no running water or electricity. Megan was considered an eccentric, who dressed and looked like a man and never married, but she did have an active social life which included Scottish country dancing and games of bridge, both of which she enjoyed with a passion.

That might have been the end of what was an ordinary personal life story but for one remarkable skill that Megan developed as a young girl: her ability to tie flies, for salmon fishing, of such exquisite composition and beauty that they called to fishermen everywhere, like a siren song, to visit Megan, beguiled by her ability.

Taught the art of fly tying by Bob Trussler, a river keeper friend of her father’s, Megan spent over 14 hours a day, almost every day of the week, spinning and weaving her magic at a kidney-shaped dressing table. By the time of her death in 2001, at the age of 86, she had created thousands of flies – many now kept in museums and private collections – and had been awarded the British Empire Medal by Queen Elizabeth II, whose son, Prince Charles, had eventually become one of Megan’s customers and, eventually, a friend.

Kiss The Water

Megan Boyd’s Fly Tying desk (courtesy of

Megan’s story is one that captivated American film director, Eric Steel, who – like many of us – scans newspaper obituaries out of curiosity. He discovered Megan’s life story in The New York Times in 2001, clipped the piece from the paper, and held onto it for over 10 years. During the intervening decade, Steel went on to make the acclaimed documentary ‘The Bridge’ (2006) and produced other films such as ‘Angela’s Ashes’, ‘Shaft’ and ‘Julie and Julia’. Eventually Megan’s siren song called to him, and he made a trip to Scotland where he interviewed Megan’s friends, assembling her life into a series of anecdotes that has become his latest documentary, ‘Kiss The Water‘.

Released to rave reviews in 2013 and chosen as an official presentation at venues like the Tribeca Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival and more, ‘Kiss The Water’ is a combination of storytelling, fly tying, and animation. The documentary’s subject matter seemed a great fit for the fly fishers and supporters of Project Healing Waters, and having been offered the opportunity to see a preview of the film, I jumped at the chance. An invitation to speak to Steel presented itself so he recently spoke to me by ‘phone from New York.

Director Eric Steel (far right) with Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld at the Tribeca Film Festival

Director Eric Steel (far right) with Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld at the Tribeca Film Festival

Our conversation began with my comment that the film struck me as having the suggestion of fluidity, similar to the flow of water, and that the animation added to that feeling – no doubt aided by Paul Cantelon’s musical score, reminiscent of Saint-Saëns.

I also remarked on the bleakness of the Scottish landscape that Megan knew, and its grey weather, suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t surprising that she might have found fly tying brought colour into her life.

Steel explained that he thought the film had a “tenuous, shoreline feeling” like “one big wave”, that reflected the idea of fishing and water. He hadn’t been to Scotland prior to making the documentary, but he found that many fisherman there still use old rods and reels, with flies made in the old style using cat gut. As a non-fisherman himself, he learned that a fisherman finds magic in the idea of catching the salmon, and that it is a primal activity, one that allows you to think and gain peace of mind.

In Steel’s view, Megan had a bit of a “hard scrabble” life so he agreed that tying flies, especially her use of exotic bird feathers, would indeed have brought real colour to her life, a bit of ‘pretty’ which she herself certainly wasn’t. We touched briefly on what her inner life might have been, given how remote her cottage was and how she was alone with her thoughts. Steel thought she probably kept things close to her chest and while we can speculate on her sexuality, this aspect of Megan wasn’t something he wanted to delve into too deeply because it would spoil the enigma of who exactly Megan Boyd was.

Kiss The Water

Megan Boyd Flies – 1930 (Courtesy of

I next asked Steel what his expectations had been going into the making of the film. Apparently he didn’t have a plan, but he did fear travelling to Scotland in case too much time had passed and people wouldn’t be able to remember Megan. In fact, he was surprised by how willing people were to tell tales about her and that, for him, it was really about learning how to be a storyteller.

The film makes striking use of artist Em Cooper‘s animation. Her artwork adds punch to the scenes of those sharing their stories, and the live action shots of fishing. When asked why he chose to include animation, Steel replied that he wanted to create the idea of what it’s like to be under the water. “Any sport involves a marriage of what you can do technically, and what you can control – in this case, choosing the fly and the rod. Under the water, it’s a different world where the salmon live and spawn. I noticed in Scotland that the water had a different colour”. Steel went on to say that Cooper’s artistry enabled him to create a more a dimensional view of Megan and her world -”I was really looking underneath the surface of Megan’s life”.

Kiss The Water fly

Em Cooper fly animation

As Steel had already acknowledged that he wasn’t a fisherman, I wondered if that had actually helped the way in which he had approached the film. “In some ways, yes it did” he replied. “I’ve always had a romanticized idea of fishing. It was a bit like learning a new language, rich in metaphors. I wanted to listen to the tone and the imagery, compose a frame that invited you into it. It’s a bit like listening to a poem in Portuguese, where you hear it and think how beautiful it is, something you hadn’t noticed before”.

Given that Steel’s documentary ‘The Bridge’ featured the controversial subject of suicide and that he reads obituaries, I asked him if the subject of death was a pattern in his work or, if indeed, he saw it more as a reaffirmation of life. “It’s a bit like a spot on the horizon where the water meets the air” he said, acknowledging the idea and relating it to his current work. “A fleeting moment for a salmon (is) where it’s in the air and it can’t breathe. I’ve always had a melancholy wonder about death. In ‘The Bridge’, the most profound aspect was actually those people who walked past the ones about to commit suicide, as if they didn’t see them or that part of the world. It is about what people’s lives are worth. It’s painful to lose someone. The spectre of death makes life more vivid”.

Our conversation turned to Project Healing Waters and the veterans that are supported through the programs provided. Aware of the project, Steel talked about his profound respect for the work being done by leaders and volunteers, and the effects of post traumatic stress syndrome, understanding from his own experience of others in stressful situations that rebuilding trust is part of healing. To this day, he maintains a friendship with one subject of ‘The Bridge’ who survived a fall.

Naturally I wanted to know what kind of response he’d received from fly fishers and he responded that anglers really loved it, seeing it as a poetic tribute to fishing. “It is an escape from the world and the peace of it is larger than the activity itself” he added.

Kiss The Water

Megan Boyd (courtesy of

My last question was probably inevitable. I asked Steel what he thought Megan Boyd would make of his film. Thinking that she left us with more questions than answers, Steel said “I think she would try to pretend that she wasn’t flattered, but actually she would be. That’s the conundrum of life. Everyone enjoys validation, friendships and camaraderie”.

'Kiss The Water' poster

‘Kiss The Water’ poster

‘Kiss the Water’ has been chosen as the closing night film at the Water Film Festival in Toronto. The documentary will be shown on March 29 at 7 pm, at the Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and will be followed by a Q & A session with Eric Steel. For more information, please see this link.

‘Kiss The Water’ trailer.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the film, veterans, friends and supporters of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada are being offered a $1.00 discount. Please go to - where there are a couple of different purchase options for download – and enter the code ‘healing’.

A percentage of revenue generated by purchases will be donated to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada to help support the Program’s work.

Winter Tying at Petawawa

Text and photos provided by Andre Baril.

The Project Healing Waters involvement in Petawawa was initially planned at the end of 2012 with the help of Bruce Philips, then Petawawa OSISS coordinator, who subsequently moved to Ottawa. Unfortunately, the project was not launched until Fall 2013 for various administrative reasons.

Bruce and I launched the Ottawa project in Fall 2013 by providing fly casting and fly tying clinics to forty veterans. If it is true that fly fishing is very relaxing, the pleasure is double when we are tying flies. By doing so, not only are we concentrating on the skills necessary to attach various materials on what seems to the neophyte as very small hooks, but also we are dreaming of being with nature and of preparing the next trip. We are also imagining the many fishes we are going to catch, and with something we have created on our own. This is the beauty of fly tying.

winter tying at Petawawa

Ottawa River clinic

Following the success of the Ottawa project, we quickly heard that the veterans of the Petawawa base were very eager to embark on this new journey and, thanks to the support of Captain John Harju, newly-based Petawawa OSISS coordinator, we were able to put something together to start early in the new year 2014: the plan was to reverse the Ottawa process and learn the tying first and the casting after.

We then put together a calendar of five distinct sessions, looked for volunteers to assist as mentors, and we succeeded with the help of the Algonkin Fly Fishers’ Club and Sgt Chris from Petawawa.

The winter tying at Petawawa started on January 14 and ended on February 18. We were surprised by the numbers who showed up the first day and the majority stayed until the end.  Given the numbers, we divided in two groups and each group learned the basic skills and tied two different flies at each of the sessions.

winter tying at petawawa

Fly tying demonstration

winter tying at petawawa

Morning session – group photo

winter tying at petawawa

Morning fly tying session

winter tying at Petawawa

Petawawa afternoon group

winter tying at petawawa

afternoon group tying

The mentoring staff agreed that those 19 veterans not only showed up to the clinics, but also demonstrated throughout a keen interest in the skills, and a very high motivation to learn and practice on their own.

The project was designed to show as many fly tying techniques as possible to cover almost all species that can be fished from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with an escapade in the North.  Numerous fly patterns were tied by the Petawawa veterans throughout the clinics.

Again, a big thank you to Wounded Warriors for providing the necessary funds for the fly tying project, to the OSISS personnel for coordinating with the veterans, and for all volunteers who did an excellent job.

winter tying at petawawa

Box of flies

UMA Wounded Warrior Fly

This post is in both French and English.

UMA wounded warrior fly

A close-up of the UMA Fly

UMA Wounded Warrior Fly

Ce matin, ce fut pour le directeur du projet les Eaux curatives (moi) une matinée bien spéciale. Une rencontre avec le Brigadier général Christian Barabé OMM, CD à la retraite représentant provincial de ‘Wounded Warrrior Canada (WWC)’ et aussi avec le Capitaine Daimian Boyne CD retraité, il est le coordinateur national des évènements majeur.

UMA wounded warrior fly

Gervais Jeffrey meeting with Christian Barabé

Lors de cette rencontre, Richard Blanchet et moi-même avons présenté la mouche Wounded Warrrior à Christian pour qu’il la remettre au Lieutenant général Honorable Roméo A. Dallaire O.C, C.M.M, G.O.Q, C.S.M, C.D (retraité) sénateur. Sénateur Dallaire est le président d’honneur national de WWC, organisme à but non lucratif qui vient en aide aux militaires qui souffrent du Syndrome de post traumatisme.

UMA est un mot d’origine indienne du Québec vivant sur la rive nord du St Laurent près de Sept-Isle. Le mot ‘uma’ en français est «l’espoir», soit que la croyance de nos guerriers blessés.

Les couleurs de cette mouche spéciale furent choisies par Richard Blanchet et créé et monté par moi. Elle se doit représentative du travail fait par WWC envers nos jeunes militaires et vétérans blessés ou souffrant du syndrome post traumatisme.
J’ai aussi présenté une réplique à Christian et à Daimian pour leur travail et implication envers le Project Les Eaux Curatives.

UMA Wounded Warrior fly

Gervais Jeffrey presenting the Wounded Warrior Fly to Christian Barabé and Richard Blanchet

UMA Wounded Warrior Fly

This was a special morning for Gervais Jeffrey, the director of the Project Healing Waters chapter in Québec.

What a morning. It started out with meeting retired Brigadier General Christian Barabé OMM, CD, and retired Captain Damian Boyne. Christian is the Quebec provincial coordinator for Wounded Warriors Canada (WWC) and Damian is the National event coordinator for the same organisation.

During this meeting, Richard Blanchet and I had the pleasure of presenting the UMA fly Wounded Warrior to Christian in order that he could then present it to Lieutenant General (Ret’d) The Honorable Romeo A. Dallaire O.C., C.M.M., G.O.Q, M.S.C., C.D., (Retired), Senator.

UMA Wounded Warrior fly

Daimian Boyne and Christian Barabé

Gen Dallaire is the National Patron for Wounded Warriors Canada. Wounded Warriors is a non-profit organization that helps Canadian Forces members – be they full time or reservists – who have been wounded or injured in their service to Canada.

UMA is a native Indian word from the Quebec natives living on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River close to Sept-Isle. The word ‘uma’ in English is ‘hope’, and in French is ‘espoir’, representing that belief for our wounded warriors.

The colors of the fly were chosen by Richard and created and tied by me. It represents the work of Wounded Warriors Canada towards our young soldiers who have been wounded or are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome while serving Canada.

Gervais also presented a smaller copy of the fly to Christian and Daimian for their work with Project Healing Waters Quebec.


Pinterest as Scrapbook

Pinterest as Scrapbook. Is there a connection?


Vintage Scrapbook example

A scrapbook today is very different from those created years ago. Like many kids, I kept a scrapbook for years and put inside it all of the things that had some meaning to me: pictures of animals, postcards I received, concert tickets, newspaper clippings – you name it. I still have that scrapbook and though some of the items have come loose now, I can’t part with it all these years later.

The origins of keeping a scrapbook really come out of Europe from as early as the 15th century. By the 17th century, particularly in England, what were known as ‘commonplace books’ were kept, primarily by scholars, writers and readers, who wrote information into the books for reference. In time, more items of interest or value were added and so commonplace books evolved into friendship books.

A friendship book held details about friends, of places visited, pieces of art and text, perhaps even a lock of hair.


A page from the Friendship Book of Anne Wagner, England, 1803

In time, these books held recipes, sketches, newspaper clippings, baseball cards, love letters, photographs and other memorabilia. This scrapbook version is one many of us can identify with today – at least the type we might remember as children.

Keeping a scrapbook morphed again in the 1990s. With the advent of technology and paper manufacturing processes, new methods of preserving memories were introduced. Digital cameras and smartphones meant that everyone could quickly take a photo wherever they were. Once at home, the images could be easily printed out and inserted into a scrapbook. This modern keepsake contained acid-free paper and embellishments, protected by plastic page protectors and kept in special ring binders. Soon special tools became available, friends would meet to make page layouts together, and the phenomenon called scrapbooking took off worldwide.

Fish-themed scrapbook page Courtesy of

Fish-themed page
Courtesy of

The next evolution was the development of niche software. Where pages were once created on paper or card, now they could be completed on your home computer and printed out at home. Today, most scrapbookers use cloud-based software for ease of use, no additional software purchases and better storage.


Example of Digital page
Courtesy of Brandy Murry,

Inevitably, with social media so prevalent in the 21st century, it wasn’t long before someone realized keeping a visual scrapbook and being social could be integrated.

Pinterest is that 21st century scrapbook.

There is more detailed information on their website but, in essence, once you are a member, you can name and create a variety of boards and pin items onto them. These boards are then shared with other members.

A member can upload items of their own or see a home page feed showing other items Pinterest members have pinned that you might like and want to re-pin onto your boards. You can even keep boards secret so that if you’re planning a surprise, only you can see them. Businesses love using Pinterest too, and there are many using the social media application with successful results.

A few weeks ago, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada joined Pinterest. A Pinterest button is already located at the top-right hand side of the home page which, if you click on it, will take you to our boards – see screenshot below.


PHWFFC Pinterest Board

There’s already been some re-pinning and we have some followers. It’s going to take time to add to each Board. Take some time to visit our Pinterest account and see what you like. Let us know if you’re following and if you have any suggestions – we’d love to hear from you.