Doaktown museum new home to extensive fly-fishing collection

Doaktown museum new home to extensive fly-fishing collection

A museum in central New Brunswick is getting a huge addition to its collection.

The Atlantic Salmon Museum in Doaktown is the new owner of an extensive collection of fly fishing paraphernalia, some of it dating back to the 19th century.

Morris Green, the museum's honourary director in charge of the acquisition, said the extensive collection of flies, reels and art will increase the footprint of the museum.

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"Don't get me wrong, we have a really good collection in the museum already, a good sound one, but this one was far superior to ours and when we put the two together, we're going to establish the best museum of that type in the world," said Green.

"There's no exaggeration."

The benefactor

The late British Columbia architect and angler John Keith-King bought the collection from a Nova Scotia man, who started it at least 50 years ago.

Keith-King was "a bit of a legend," said family representative, David McCann.

"John was a character that you either loved dearly or would cross the street to make sure you didn't have to stop to talk to him," said McCann.

"He was in many ways a little bit bigger than life."

The collection

The collection, which McCann estimated is worth up to $500,000, includes pieces so intricate they would be next to impossible to reproduce.

"I took one of the pieces to my framers and I said, 'Would you guys be willing to reproduce some of this, and if you do, how much would it be?' — basically trying to figure out how much it would be," said McCann.

"The guy looked at me and said, 'I thought you were crazy, but now I think you're nuts if you think I'm going to do something like that. Even with my computer-driven equipment it's just not worth the time and energy to do it.'"

McCann said some of the flies are from the 1800s, but it's not just the age or even the complexity of the flies that jumps out to McCann.

"It's not just a few flies in a frame," he said. "Each one has a picture or a card or a fish. 

"I had an art gallery for 25 years and I've never seen anything put together this way."

The deal

When Keith-King's family decided to donate the collection to a museum, McCann asked a friend from New Brunswick for advice about where it should go. The museum in Doaktown was suggested.

"I said, 'Well, what's a Doaktown?' And he said, 'No, it's not a what, it's a place.'"

Green happened to be in the museum when manager Erin Swim showed him an email about the collection.

"She said, 'We get so many emails in here all the time about this that or the other thing. … What do you think we should do about this?'" Green recalled Swim saying.

"I looked at it and I read it and I thought, here's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

McCann said he hopes to have the collection on the road to Doaktown by the end of March. Green said older exhibits will be put into storage temporally, so the new collection can be put on display.

In addition to the new collection, the museum has experienced another windfall, an anonymous donation of $350,000.

"That's going to help us with an expansion necessary in order to accommodate the new collection and to allow the old one to sort of come back," Green said.

McCann said Keith-King would be happy with the arrangement.

"I think John would be absolutely delighted that it's going somewhere," McCann said. "And the other thing is he would really laugh that he's making me and Morris and everybody else work so hard."