My Recollections of Bill Franke
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.
William Swift Franke
Published Date: Wednesday, 26 December 2012 02:27
William Swift Franke, 64, of North Conway, passed away surrounded by his family on December 21, 2012 at Memorial Hospital following a long battle with cancer.
Bill was born on August 13, 1948 in Oak Bluffs, Mass. to Nancy Hazelton Swift Franke and William Henry Franke. When Bill was six, the family moved from Martha's Vineyard to Medfield, Mass. As a teenager, Bill moved to North Danville, Vt. where he lived with the family of Ann and Guy Hodges. Following graduation from Danville High School in 1966, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War before being honorably discharged as Sergeant E5 in 1969.
Bill's professional life revolved around fly fishing. In 1972/73, Bill tied flies professionally in Aspen, Colo. When he returned to the East Coast, he completed a machine operator course at the New Hampshire Vocational Technical College in Berlin. In 1974, he launched Timberline Rods with a partner; through the company, he designed and developed a line of four-piece pack rods. In addition to those sold under the Timberline Rod name, he produced hundreds of pack rods under the L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports labels.
In 1988, he opened W.S. Franke Custom Fishing Rods in North Conway. At this time, he also designed a replacement foot for Pflueger Medalist reels, which led to the creation of One-Pfoot. Eventually, this company branched into designing and machining all replacement parts for Pflueger Medalist reels. He sold One-Pfoot in May 2012 and the company continues to thrive under its new ownership.
As a licensed guide, Bill introduced many people to the challenges and rewards of fly fishing. Bill's dedication to the sport was personal as well as professional. He spent as much time as possible on the spring creeks of central Pennsylvania, and fishing for trout and landlocked salmon in New Hampshire and Maine. He also loved fishing for Atlantic salmon in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, especially spending time each year on his beloved Miramichi River in New Brunswick. As an outdoorsman, he also enjoyed bird and deer hunting every fall.
Bill was defined by his passion for life and family — under his lead, his family's motto was "It's always an adventure." From fishing tours, camping excursions, visits to museums, day trips to see Broadway shows in New York City, midnight excursions to L.L. Bean in Freeport, and a wide variety of "mystery tours," Bill's enthusiasm was infectious; he found and shared joy in the smallest details of life.
Bill leaves his wife of 40 years and the love of his life, Karen Sims Franke, of North Conway; two daughters Megan Hinckley and her husband Dave of Arlington, Mass., and Michelle Ruth Olds and her husband Doug of Kurtistown, Hawaii; and three grandsons Emory Swift and William Douglas Olds, and Malcolm Charles Hinckley. He is also survived by his siblings: sister Gale Rad of Medfield, Mass., brothers Dean Franke of Silver Lake, Alexander Franke of Conway, Conrad Franke of Newport, Vt., and Eric Franke of Plainville, Mass.; his father-in-law William L. Sims of State College, Pa.; brother-in-law Richard W. Sims and his wife Norrine, of Port Matilda, Pa.; six nephews and a niece; as well as members of his Vermont family: Ann Hodges of North Danville, Vt., Rita and Don Laferriere of East Haven, Vt., Carol Hodges of St. Johnsbury, Vt., Guyla and Brad Woodbrey of Raymond, Maine, and Tim Hodges of North Danville, Vt.
There will be a celebration of Bill's life in the summer of 2013; additional details will be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in honor of Bill be made in support of Jen's Friends Cancer Foundation, PO Box 1842, North Conway, NH 03860.
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.
Bill Fishing at Falls Pond
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.
Beautiful male Brook Trout
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.
Rods and more Rods
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