Film review: Kiss the water

A “strange little film”, a “gemlike documentary”, and “hypnotic” – just some of the words used by reviewers of “Kiss the water”, the extraordinary film from American director Eric Steel.

Released last year, the documentary charts the extraordinary life and times of the legendary fly tier, Megan Boyd who died in 2001 at the age of 86.

Reflective interviews from the people who knew her, footage of the stunning Sutherland scenery, and impressionistic animation mingle to create a lyrical masterpiece that flows as cool and mysterious as the river Brora itself.

Enigma

Megan Boyd

Image source: Heather MacLeod
Megan Boyd tying flies with her dog, Patch.

Loner, eccentric and master of the art of the fly, Megan Boyd was an enigmatic character who lived a life of almost monastic frugality and simplicity. Born in England in 1918, she was just a child when her father took a job as a gamekeeper on a private estate, and brought her to the wild hills and rivers of Sutherland in the Scottish highlands.

Another gamekeeper, Bob Trussler taught Megan to tie flies by getting her to disassemble and reassemble his own creations on smaller and smaller hooks, until she had mastered the patterns. She never looked back.

At the age of 20, Megan moved to a tiny cottage perched on a hillside above the village of Kintradwell. In a tiny tin roofed studio, she spent the next 50 years tying flies for fly fishermen on both sides of the Atlantic. In time her creations became recognised as some of the best flies ever tied, famed for their uncanny knack for catching salmon.

Royal connections

Prince Charles

Image source: Doar Pescuit
Prince Charles was a big fan of Megan’s craftsmanship.

Among her customers was Prince Charles who became a lifelong friend – though when aides turned up at her cottage asking her to whip a couple of masterpieces together for their master, Megan refused, saying she was just off to a local dance. When awarded the British Empire Medal, she informed the Queen that she couldn’t attend to receive the honour because she had nobody to look after her dog that day.

Just like the salmon caught by fly fishermen using her flies, Megan is hard to fathom. And just as the life of the king of the rivers is shrouded in mystery, Megan Boyd remains a complex and esoteric figure.

She could have been famous but she shunned the limelight, she tied flies that were legendary, but she herself never fished. In fact, Megan Boyd claimed she could never have brought herself to use her flies and fly fishing rod to actually catch a salmon. And though her life story is woven through the film, Megan herself appears only fleetingly, towards the end.

A woman of unusual dress and curious ways, reading between the lines you begin to glimpse a strange life that defies definition, instead pouring like water through the fingers of those who attempt to tell her story. Mysterious, enchanting and luminous, Kiss the water is like one of Megan Boyd’s flies: beautiful yet mysterious.

Get hooked

Watch this video to find out more about ‘Kiss the water’.