Based on the questions we receive in TRM reception, we operate some sort of local fishy information office. Last week an inmate was keen to find out more about the Red Spinner tackle shop at Hatepe. So this is for him. I vaguely remember the shop used to be on the corner of the main road (SH1) but now it has been moved and is tucked away in the back of the residential holiday homes on the lake edge in Hatape – see image above.
So we googled “Bruno Kemble” – the original “proprietor” and discovered the following entertaining descriptions from internet facebook responses back in 2004.
Images on right of the Hinemaiaia from TRM library:
Yep, I knew him quite well. He & his wife operated a tackle shop at Hatepe, alongside the Hinemiaia river. They catered for fly fishing only, tied thier own flies & sold them from the glass fronted counter. All flies were handled with tweezers & handed over in a paper bag! He insisted that they were not to be man- handled prior to purchase.
How they managed to tie the flies without touching them is beyond me!
Bruno was an Indian Army relic, very British in his ways & demeanour.
He was quite a character, strong with his thoughts & words & interesting.
Gin at noon, & a healthy supply for the rest of the day was the norm.
Will have a think on some of the storys & if they would be printable here!
Old Bruno was one of the characters alright. I can remember calling into his store as a kid and being totally impressed with the flies on display. Bruno was a chain smoker, he lit one off the previous one and his fingers were stained yellow. Amazing the things a kid remembers. As a teen trying to get into the flyfishing business my parents tried to buy Bruno’s store to start me off in the trade just as bruno had retired but there was a problem with the maori lease on the land. The site of the store was right at the turn off to go into Hatepe. The house closest to taupo now was a petrol station and Bruno’s store “The Red Spinner” was situated on the section directly opposite. A house has since been moved onto the site and a fence erected but the large grass area right on the corner was the site of the shop.
There was a good reason no one was allowed to handle the flies. Bruno tied them, shall we say, not as durable as they could have been tied and his flies, while very effective, were prone to falling apart!!! It was well known that if you returned to his store with a fly that had fallen apart he would ask “Did you catch a fish on it”? If you answered yes the standard response was “Then it’s done it’s job, how many more would you like”?
Bang on Cicada. The flies he tied were held together with a rub of bees wax on the tying thread & nothing else. In those days, bobbin holders were unknown, so a length of tying “silk” was taken from the reel & used freehand.
Bruno was the best chain smoker I ever met–he was my inspiration, my hero!
The house was dark & dingy, I don’t know if the widows were ever cleaned . Everything was yellow, including his “puka sahib” moustache.
In those days, I was working for Keith Draper & the tying rooms were up a steep flight of stairs. Bruno would call in for materials & we could hear him coughing & wheezing from the moment he stepped on the first stair.
He sounded a bit like an old steam engine by the time he got to the top.
After lighting up, he would start cracking us up with his wicked sense of humour. All the time keeping a straight face & a fag going.
Bruno was considered an expert fly-fisherman but I never met anyone who had actually seen him fishing!
Another character from that era & area was John Cockburn, custodian of the upper Hinemiaa dam system. He was a hermit most of the time, lived in a hovel overlooking the dam & watched any visitors from behind cover.
I remember one interesting day when they both called at the same time, we couldn’t work for an hour or so, to busy laughing.
FOR THIS ANGLER, THE AROMAS OF A TACKLE SHOP ARE RICHLY EVOCATIVE
Fishing is generally considered a malodorous sport, but to an angler even the finest delicatessen or bakery fails to offer fragrances as tantalizing as those found inside a good tackle shop. The delicious smoky scent of fly-rod varnish or the satisfying redolence of the beeswax and pine pitch used on fly-tying thread are as appealing as the aroma of a fine cheese or a delicate pastry……
Whenever I smell tea I think of one of the most unusual tackle shops I ever saw, a little place called the Red Spinner in the settlement of Hatepe on the eastern shore of Lake Taupo in New Zealand. It contained only a bare counter, a single shelf with a few fly reels and a pair of wooden chests with shallow drawers. The usual tackle-shop scents were absent; this place smelled only of tea.
The proprietor, whose name I later learned was Bruno Kemball, was standing behind the counter when I entered. I had been searching for a locally manufactured version of a famous English fly reel, and after glancing at the meager stock I asked Kemball, without much hope, if he had one. He glared at me and, drawing himself up, said in a frosty British accent, “Young man, I learned long ago never to compromise on English quality. I advise you to do the same. I carry only genuine English-made reels.”
Properly chastened, I asked if he might recommend some flies for the Tongariro River, where I was bound. Without a word he went quickly to one of the wooden chests and opened a drawer. Inside were some of the most beautiful trout flies I had ever seen, arranged in meticulous order on a bed of velvet. “You’ll need two of these,” he said, using a pair of tweezers to pick up a pair of the flies and place them carefully in a small cellophane envelope as if they were rare postage stamps. He opened another drawer and repeated the process, continuing until at last he handed me half a dozen cellophane envelopes, each containing two flies. “For the Tongariro,” he said.
A day or two later, while fishing on the Tongariro, I mentioned the experience to another angler. “Let me tell you about the first time I went to the Red Spinner,” he said. “Old Bruno was busy, so I thought I’d save time and help myself. I went over to the chest, opened a drawer and was just reaching in for a fly when Bruno caught me across the wrist with a karate chop. ‘I’ll thank you to keep your bloomin’ ‘ands off my flies!’ he says. ‘Next time use the bloody tweezers; that’s what they’re there for!’ “
But the shops smell pretty much as they always have, and whenever I enter one and recognize those old familiar scents I feel something of the excitement of a small boy with his face pressed against a glass case full of gleaming treasures, breathing the rich scent of new leather and listening to fishing talk. At least that never seems to change.