Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bill Arp, in Memoriam by Keith Elliott

When I heard that Bill Arp had passed away a few weeks ago, I got in touch with Wallace Carney, esteemed Mitchell reel expert and author of the new book The Mitchell 300. Wallace was great friends with Bill and encouraged me to contact Keith Elliott and see if he would agree to allow Keith's obituary, run in the current issue of Classic Angling, on the blog. Keith, ever helpful, kindly agreed to allow us a look at a man who was a pioneer in so many ways. Here's Keith's neat article.

Bill Arp, In Memoriam

by Keith Elliott

Bill Arp, show pioneer and the first man to realise just how collectable Mitchells reels were, has died of cancer. An avid collector and historian who loved fishing with a Mitchell 408, he died at his home in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, aged 69. His close friend Hoagy G. Carmichael – author, angling historian and rodbuilder, has rich memories of Arp. The two often travelled together and ran a tackle auction in Bedford, New York, way before Oliver’s and Lang’s.

“There must have been 160 boxes and Bill put a number on every lot. I travelled to a lot of shows with him in the early days, and he was interested in Mitchells way before anybody else. He was collecting them 35 years ago. I always remember how pleased he was when I found a couple of great Mitchell reels from someone who worked at the plant.”

Carmichael also revealed a couple of little-known sides of Arp. He had been in the Marines and did a huge amount to help the Marine Corp League but was very senior in the league and did a great deal for them. He sent thousands of parcels to Marines serving abroad, and had a wall full of commendations. “Even then, the wall wasn’t big enough,” Carmichael said.

Arp had drinking problems after Vietnam, Carmichael said. “His first wife had left him and he said: ‘I have to stop this.’ He got a job and gave his name as Bob Jefferies. He worked for a very wealthy family in New York, running their estate under that name, but when he met Barbara, he wanted to marry her and change all this. He went to the IRS and said that he had been living under an assumed name, and wanted to pay back his taxes. He did so for the rest of his life. That’s how honest Bill was.”
and Dennis Roberts writes: my dear friend Bill Arp was my mentor for the hobby. Bill envisioned that someday, he would experience that Mitchell collecting would become a global phenomenon. He was involved with mentoring many collectors and assisted a number of authors who published books on Mitchell reels. Bill edited many books as well.

In the latter part of 2008, he became the lead moderator of the Mitchell Talk Forum on eBay, and was even involved in talks to organise the Mitchell gathering in Florida next year (page 16). An avid fisherman, he used only Mitchell 408s in his quest for smallmouth bass from the Penobscot River in Maine, his favourite fishing place.

A few weeks prior to his passing, he met me and we discussed the hobby. One of the last things he said was: “Before I pass, please tell me why these reels have such a hold on us?”

Please note that Keith is the editor and publisher of Classic Angling, one of the great magazines on fishing history.

-- Dr. Todd

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