Frank Lawrence Rickard

1920 – 1993

 


Frank Lawrence Rickard was born on January 11, 1920 at the settlement of Upper Brighton, situated just north of the mouth of Becaguimac (River of Salmon), or Hartland, New Brunswick. He was the son of the late Lottie B. (nee Lawrence) and George T. Rickard.

Frank was a tall, thin man with a very shy disposition.  He never liked getting his picture taken, and he had an ability of quickly assessing a person’ spersonality.  He had a way of identifying trust, sincerity and honesty in a person.  If he didn’t take a liking to you he would let you know right up front. After that he would distance himself from you, but there wasn’t many people who Frank Rickard didn’t like, and even fewer who didn’t immediately take a liking to him. He was extremely generous and enjoyed helping those who were not as fortunate as himself. As a young boy he loved the outdoors and fishing was his passion.  He always enjoyed being in the woods and after finishing school went to work logging at Canterbury until he got his call to go and serve with the army in the Second World War.  When he first enlisted in the army he was a member of the Saint John Fusilier’s. When he went overseas he became a member of the Cameron Highlander’s of Ottawa.  

After the war ended he went to work in the woods in British Columbia and then worked at an airport in Calgary before returning to New Brunswick. Shortly after arriving back in Hartland he went to work at Aiton’s Drug Store where he prepared orders and drove truck.  He spent nearly a decade working at Aiton’s Drug Store before going to work for Hatfield Industries.  After he finished working for Hatfield’s he spent the remainder of his life working as a carpenter and painter, a guide and fly tyer.

 He began tying flies in the early 1950’s. He started tying his own flies because he couldn’t get the ones he wanted. Frank was a self-taught fly tyer who learned the art by studying the construction of different flies he was either given, purchased, found, or that he seen in fly tying books.  In the beginning he would carefully dissect many of these flies to see how they were tied.  He used hair fur and feathers from local game and domestic animals, but most of his fly tying material was purchased in Quebec.  His hooks were imported from England. 



 


Frank was a natural at tying flies.  He picked it up real quick and it wasn’t long before he was tying more flies than he could ever fish with so he started selling them.  It didn’t take long for Frank to figure out that he could make money from tying flies for others.  He could tie just about any pattern that the angler wanted. His brother Clinton Rickard has a framed presentation hanging in his home that contains 81 different fly patterns tied by Frank.

In the early years of his fly tying he concentrated on tying the fully dressed patterns.  With materials needed to tie the fully dressed flies being so expensive and time consuming to tie he began focusing his attention on the more common hair wing and streamer flies.  He was able to offer such a variety of patterns to the customer, and there was no shortage of customers.  He sold flies to people from all over the world.  One would find it difficult to imagine whom all the people could be that would have purchased Frank Rickard’s salmon flies.  If we consider only the people from around the world who came to New Brunswick to fish the Tobique and Saint John Rivers, it gives us a good idea just how many people would have been exposed to Frank Rickard’s flies. Frank was considered the Wally Doak of fly tying in his area.  His salmon flies were available just about everywhere.  We know they were distributed extensively to just about every store and outfitter from Bath to the Quebec border.  We know this from information provided by Mr. Raymond Seeley and Thomas Underhill who worked as travelling salesmen for Aiton’s Drug store. Mr. Seeley distributed them for nearly 30 years, and Mr. Underhill distributed them from 1983 until Frank’s death in 1993.  Both salesmen carried two big cedar boxes that were divided with trays that held several thousand flies each.  While doing their sales route they would distribute the flies.  A few of the businesses that purchased and resold Frank’s flies were:

Robert Miller’s General Store, Riley Brook
Arthurette’s General Store, Arthurette
Buckingham Department Store, Florenceville
Fineley Sports, Plaster Rock
Gaunce’s Grocery Store, Bristol and Holmesville
Lawrence Green’s Barber Shop, Perth
Lewis’s Grocery, Juniper
Reno Roberte Store, Riley Brook

Shaw’s Auto Parts, Plaster Rock

Till’s, Four Falls
 

 There was also a man in Wapske who sold many of Frank Rickard’s flies, and the famous Boston Red Sox baseball player, Ted Williams who fished a lot at the Hartland Salmon Pool, purchased Frank’s flies.

Frank carried boxes of his flies with him wherever he went.  He always had them with him in his truck as he travelling from job to job, and sold them to whomever, whenever and wherever he could.

Frank Rickard’s flies came with a money back or replacement guarantee.  The guarantee was a very important part of the selling strategy provided by both travelling salesmen.  Frank insisted that they provide the guarantee with every order. 

The majority of Frank’s flies distributed by Mr. Seeley and Mr. Underhill were tied on double hooks.  The only single flies sold were a “Mickey Finn” and a “Trout Finn.  Every fly was individually package and signed by Frank.  The package also displayed the name of the fly and size of the hook.   

The flies that Frank tied for selling were always dressed with a heavy wing.  He learned very early that a fly with a sparsely dressed wing would not sell.  According to Frank the angler would always buy the heavier dressed fly.  However, the flies that Frank tied for his own personal use were tied with a sparse wing.  He often said that he had more success with them.   

Frank Rickard didn’t like tying flies during the fishing season unless it was absolutely necessary.  That necessity came only into play under the following circumstances.  Whenever he needed a particular pattern that he happened to run out of, or if an angling friend requested it.  If he was going to be on the river away from home he always took a case containing his fly tying equipment.  He didn’t tie flies during the summer to build up his inventory.  The flies tied during the summer months were tied for more personal reasons and if there happened to be people around when he tied it certainly helped promote him.  Frank tried to use as much spare time as he could during the summer for fishing and guiding.         

In the fall of the year, after the fishing season ended, Frank would start tying flies.  He would take inventory of the all the flies he hadn’t sold throughout the fishing season, and then he would make a list of the flies that sold the best.  From these two lists he would calculate how many flies he would tie over the winter.  Throughout the winter months, right up to the start of the fishing season he would tie.  He spent hour upon hour, day after day tying flies. He would tie hundreds and hundreds of flies in the months between the salmon seasons. Once he filled his quota he stopped. 

Frank liked to guide for two to three weeks when the salmon season first opened in the spring of the year.  He was a really good friend with Max Vickers, Clarence Mountain and Arch Jardine, all of whom were very experience guides working for the Doctor’s Island Club in Blackville, New Brunswick.  In the summertime he would go to Doctor’s Island to guide his good friend, Robert C. “Bob” Albee Jr., an American businessman and member of the Doctor’s Island Club in Blackville. 

Frank Rickard originated two fly patterns in the late 1950’s.  Both patterns are usually tied on large hooks.  The first is the “Albee Special”, originated after his good friend Robert Albee.  The pattern is identical to the “Mickey Finn” but with a white beard added.  This fly is considered a real killer during all water conditions, but especially during high water. 

 Frank with a 20 pound salmon he caught in 1961

One year Frank and Bob were supposed to go on a fishing trip in Quebec. For whatever reason Frank couldn’t make it so Bob went on alone.  While in Quebec Bob used the “Albee Special” and the success he had with that fly was tremendous.  He called Frank from Quebec to tell him that he’d caught his limit every day and the fish he caught were big salmon.  Frank used the fly a lot on the Miramichi and had great luck with it also.  It is a fly that can be fished effectively at any time during salmon season.  

The second fly is one he called the “Sacred Cow”.  He sometimes referred to it as the “Holy Cow”.  It is a very simple, sparsely dressed fly consisting of a medium brown wool body and two gray feathers for the wings.  Max Vickers can attest to the fly’s effectiveness for catching salmon.          

Frank with a big salmon caught in 1960

Frank was an exceptional angler who could cast a really long line.  His cast was straight and powerful.  With his casting ability he could accurately set a fly anywhere he desired.  This could be witnessed when he fished below the Hartland Bridge at a spot known as the Dungeon.  Frank wanted to get the fish to stop and hold below the Hartland Bridge.  In order to get them to do so he took his 20-foot canoe and loaded it with great big boulders, as big as the canoe could safely transport, and he paddled them out into the middle of the river where he dropped them overboard.  This created a resting spot for the fish, but in order to fish over the boulders one had to cast a real long line, or fish it from a boat.  With Frank’s casting ability he had no trouble fishing the rocks from shore.  He caught many a fish there.   

Frank’s favourite river was the Saint John, where he spent a lot of time fishing his favourite pool known as the Dungeon.  In the spring of the year he looked forward to taking his boat and motor and going to fish at the Doctor’s Island Pool at Blackville. Burpee’s Bar, situated at Fredericton was another spot where Frank spent a lot of time angling. 

Frank Rickard’s fly tying heyday spanned two and a half decades from 1960 to 1985.  His closest friends that shared his fly tying enthusiasm during the 60’s and 70’s maintain that Frank tied an annual estimate of 7000 flies.   

Frank was 73-years old when he passed away, but he tied flies right up to a couple of weeks before his death in 1993. 

Albee Special

Butt:      Fluorescent red floss or yarn

Body:     Flat silver tinsel

Rib:      Oval silver tinsel

Wing:    A small bunch of yellow bucktail or calftail, over which is a small bunch of red followed by a          small bunch of yellow.  The wing is tied very sparse.

Beard:   White hackle

Head:    Black

Sacred Cow (Holy Cow)

 Body:     Medium brown wool or floss

Wing:    Gray feathers

Head:    Black