It was sometime after Christmas this last year (2012) that I happened to be thumbing through a copy of the Conway Daily Sun and saw the obituary for Bill, I was shocked even though I was aware he was gravily ill. The write up (Posted in this story) was great about his life.
My Recollections of Bill Franke
by: Lee Goldsmith
I guess the best way to get started with this essay is to post the obituary about Bill.
That Celebration I attended on June 9th 2013. What a nice send off for one of the greatest people I will ever know. Bill was very generous and loving of most, if not all people. He in my mind was a one of a kind. I would love to put together a few of my experiences with Bill just to let everyone know what he was like.
I really do not know exactly the first time I met Bill, I do believe it was sometime in the mid to late 1970's. I do remember his little shop in the parking lot of the Wildflower B&B, he was selling his Timberline Rod kits and I purchased two from him. One was a 7' 5wt four piece pack rod and the other a 6' 5wt four piece pack rod. At that time I believe the price was around $35 dollars for each. The kit included everything you needed to complete the rod. So I built the 7' rod and to be honest I did a very poor job. The rod now needs to have a good rod builder fix it up for me. The other rod the 6' I never built, so I asked Bill to build it for me. I left the rod with him and low and behold it shows up in the mail all done, not a single payment made and he sent it to me. Eventually I paid Bill for it, I think $100, what a bargain. That was my go to rod for many years, was so light and had enough backbone to cast at least 40 feet with little effort. That is one fly rod I wish I still had. As it turned out I lost the rod to a thief who stole the rod from car through a small opening of a window. My bad and I will never set myself up for that again.
Another time I stopped into Bill's Rod shop, the one behind May Kelly's. Bill would say that this shop had the best view in the valley, out the back window you could see the Saco River and often see deer in the fields around the River. I had caught one of my guides on my Fenwick Rod and it needed to be repaired. I gave to tip section to Bill and why we were talking he striped the windings off and would be able to repair the Rod in no time. He did so and the price was very reasonable as always.
Now for a very funny story about fishing the Rapid River. I picked up Bill at his house early that morning and we proceeded up to Error NH. Bill needed to get a Maine license and he could get one at L.L. Cote's. After breakfast and getting a license we traveled east on Rt 26 to the Andover Road. We proceeded down this road 2 miles to the dirt road you need to take to get to the Rapid River. This road is gated in the winter and early spring but usually the gate is open by this time of the year. To our astonishment the gate was locked, it was May 23 and it was still locked. We both felt really down when Bill looked at the gate, measured it on his body and walked over to my car, a small Escort wagon. Bill measured the car height to the gate and he said "I think you can drive under the gate". So we tried and sure enough we were in.The only regret I have is that I never took a picture of the car under the Gate. Off to the Rapid and the fishing was great that day. I was fishing the riffle next to the island and hooked into a beautiful Brook Trout and Bill was not near so he could not help me get a picture of the fish. I netted the fish and removed the fly. I was knee deep in water and moved quickly towards the island looking for a place to place the fish for a picture. A rock sticking out of the water was my only hope. I placed the fish in the net over this rock and as it would be the fish flopped out into the water. I was sure my opportunity to take a picture was lost. But to my surprise the fish was there in the shallow water just catching his breath. So I took two pictures of the fish in the water and the second was great (see picture to the right). Needless to say we had a wonderful day on the river and we had the place almost to ourselves. Later that same year Bill and I returned to the river and again had the place almost to ourselves. There was a light mist falling that day so no pictures. We hit a hatch of large may flies that had that river come alive with activity. Bill and I planted ourselves on either side of what I refer to as Joel's Run and had a ball catching and releasing many large Brook Trout and Landlocked Salmon. It was fun.
I want to show a few pictures of Bill work, fly tying and Rod Building. Here are a couple that show what this man could do.With out a dought in my mind he was good as anyone at tying flies. I fish two of Bill's Rods today, one a graphite that is 8'6" and for a 6wt line, they are Sage blanks. The other is Glass, 6'6" and for a 4wt line. This Rod is sweet on the little mountain streams of NH.
I fished with Bill only about 6 to 10 times and wish I had had more opportunities to do so. He was a great friend and teacher and he will be greatly missed in the Mount Washington Valley and other places in this world. I know I will shed a small tear each and every time I catch a fish on one of his fly rods.
Please go to the next page and see a small slide show of pictures about Bill.
Thanks for the good time Bill and may the Fish Gods be with you.
Slide Show about Bill Franke
Bill Franke Album