A while back I was fossicking through one of those plastic storage bins which contains a collection of flies that have come my way over the years. Amongst the packets and boxes, I came across five Yeties stored in a small plastic zip packet. These were in fact tied by Noel Jetson during the 2004 Bronte Tie-In. The Tie-In was an annual event held at Bronte Chalet during the late 1990s through to 2004, when it folded. The event was a fly tying conclave with invited fly tyers from all over Tasmania, plus a few from interstate participating.
A favourite feature of the Tie-In weekend was the Saturday night dinner at the Chalet; good food, great company and some entertainment. It was normal that a bit of a raffle was held so that some additional funding could be raised that went towards the cost of the following year’s event. On that fateful night, there was a pile of prizes to be won but one special package was those five Yeties tied by Noel Jetson, who offered them up to be raffled. Noel announced that the material used was the last from the famous fur coat that this fly was made from. Noel was saying that Max Christensen’s widow gave him the remnants of the coat not long after Max’s passing. During the night the raffle was drawn and a young flyflicker won the Yeties but offered them back, as he had already won a prize. Well, you guessed it, the next ticket out was mine and as one would expect, I gladly accepted the little parcel.
One of the last five Yeties tied by Noel Jetson - Pic Mick Hall
As most would acknowledge, Max Christensen was one of Tasmania’s greatest fly designers and it was he who designed the Yeti. In fact he tied a large number of variations of the Yeti and I believe some of the very first contained fur from Platypus or Tassie Devil, both very illegal to use today. I must admit that with the first look at this fly you would have to ask what material was used to make the wings. That question has caused numerous arguments over the last sixty odd years. Some would argue and have stated in writing that it is a strip of Seal’s fur, as quoted by Max Stokes in his booklet, ‘Tasmanian Trout Fly Patterns’, 1978.
Max first designed the Yeti in the very early 1950s and from all accounts, after many prototypes, the final choice came from an old fur coat made from Musquash. In Canada, England and Australia this fur, commonly sold as Musquash, is also known in America as Muskrat. Another fact is that the Hudson Bay Fur Company actually patented the name “Hudson Seal” for Muskrat that was dyed to imitate Seal’s fur, a practice that this company had been doing since 1906.
To add to this confusion, dye masters also used the term ‘seal’ or ‘sealing’ of the colour during the dying process. Bevan Stewart writes in a letter to noted collector Tom Edwards on this subject and states that the fur used was seal dyed Musquash. He also writes in part, “Many tyers believe that the fur is from a seal, confusing the animal with the process of seal dying by brushing the dye into the fur”. So folks, those are the facts and I will leave it at that.
Melbourne collector Tom Edwards would arguably have the largest collection of Max Christensen’s flies in Australia. Some time ago I offered to photograph this collection and in all there were some twenty variations of the Yeti. Some were only slight, with yellow eyes instead of red and there was even one featuring a possum wing.
Max Christenson was always developing and looking for new materials and methods and it would be fair to say he was highly innovative and in many ways ahead of his time. Some of the other unique flies that came from his vice were The Mary, Bloody Mary, Mary Alice, Beastie, Telephonist and Truganini, just to name a few.
According to Andy Braithwaite, in all Max Christensen designed some 69 patterns that were marketed, although not many are around today. The Yeti is still with us although the rabbit fly (Zonker) has overshadowed it in recent years. Andy even believes that there may have been more than one Musquash coat. All I know is that there are a number of fly tiers who claim to have a small piece of the fur from this coat and they are hanging onto it like gold.
So the final question is, what about those five Yeties tied by the legendary Noel Jetson? Well, as you may expect, I am hanging onto them like gold and as I write I am preparing a fly board for them to be housed in and preserved for future reference.
The tie for the most popular version of the Yeti as tied by Max Christensen is as follows: