Sometimes we come across stories in the most unlikely places: in this case it was at the Salmon Ponds, at Plenty, in Tasmania. At what was the first salmon and trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere we came across a BSA Bantam story.
Noel Jetson (1933–2016) was a renowned Tasmanian fly-tyer and one of Australia’s first professional trout guides. As a young man he was a keen angler and, to extend his fishing horizons, he bought a BSA Bantam motorcycle in 1953.
His early trips on the Bantam – to the North Esk, Macquarie and South Esk rivers and also to Bradys Lake – were with Vic Haye. Vic rode pillion and their camping, hunting and fishing gear was packed into a wooden box mounted on a small sidecar.
Another fishing mate of Noel’s was Clyde Spencer, who also bought a BSA Bantam, to join Noel on fishing adventures. Transport to the start of their journeys was in Clyde’s VW Kombi van.
On an early-1960s trip to the Julians Lakes a flooded creek blocked their way. Noel built a small ramp and jumped the creek, but Clyde didn’t clear the hazard and went in head-first.
The boys then modified the bikes with home-made rock guards and changed the rear sprockets from 48- to 70-teeth size. This lowered the top speed to 30 km/h, but improved low speed performance and capability, to crawl over rocks and along rough tracks.
The next trip to Julians with the big sprockets fitted was a huge success and took only two hours. By Christmas 1964 they had reduced the trip time to around one hour and forty minutes.
The Bantams lived up to their expectations for these adventurous fly fishers, who enjoyed many trips into Tasmania’s Western Lakes.
Noel’s Jetson’s Bantam is on display in the Trout Fishing Museum at the Salmon Ponds at Plenty and Clyde Spencer’s Bantam is on display at The Australian Fly Fishing Museum. Both bikes bear many battle scars.
Noel’s bike at Plenty
Noel Jetson, fishing legend
Noel Jetson joined the Northern Tasmanian Fisheries Association (NTFA) in the early 1960s and became Vice-President for two years and then President in the period 1977–78. He was made a life member of the NTFA in 1979.
Jetson was active in passing his angling knowledge to anglers through courses and classes. For more than 20 years he instructed anglers in the art of fly-tying, through adult education courses held in northern Tasmania from 1970.
In 1973, Jetson opened his Jetfly tackle store in Cressy and a year later he became the first professional trout guide in Australia.
He later recognised the need for a professional trout guiding peak body and, in 1979, was instrumental in forming the Tasmanian Professional Trout Guides Association (now the Trout Guides and Lodges Tasmania). He was the association’s inaugural President and was made a life member in 1994.
During his time at the helm of the association, he was a strong advocate for the sound management of the Tasmanian trout fishery, instituting service and safety standards for trout guides and their clients respectively.
In 1981, Jetson continued to teach and tutor anglers by conducting the Bronte Fly-Fishing School, at which he conducted classes for more than 290 participants until 1991.
Jetson was a master fly-tyer, introducing and adapting many legendary local fly patterns, such as the Noel’s Nobby and Black Spinner (Jetson), to the Tasmanian fly fisher. He helped change the dependence on English patterns that had been the case since the introduction of fly-fishing to Tasmania.
Jetson’s name remains synonymous with fly-fishing and fly-tying in Tasmania.