Creel Tackle House | Fly Fishing Living History

If you consider the history of fly fishing as a whole, New Zealand is just a wee blip on the radar in the overall scheme of things. We're 19th century newbies in comparison to the old school 13th century pioneers, and even next to our some of our more modern day cohorts we're still pretty new to this party.

Spend some time in Montana or Colorado and you'll inevitably end up in a little old tackle shop that's been the hub of the fishing community for generations. These places just ooze fishy vibes and feel like the kind of comforting safe spaces you could kills hours in, mindlessly chatting about the intricacies of localised fly patterns while you wait for some sort of Gierach style fishing adventure to present itself.

Time, good people, and a commitment to the passion are the only ingredients that can build an atmosphere quite like this.

New Zealand is the overachieving, fresh faced teenager on the fly fishing world stage and slim on these types of hallowed institutions however we do have a few key fly fishing stores that have been around long enough to accumulate that sort of mojo and have the ability to immerse you into the fold of fly fishing from the moment you walk through the door.

And Creel Tackle House in Turangi on the banks of the Tongariro River has that vibe in spades.


Original Creel Tackle House Turangi

(Courtesy of the Creel Tackle website)

The North Island tackle shop and guiding business was established in the early 1920s by Joe Frost a famous guide who operated out of Taylors camp, he operated the store for some thirty years 1920 to about 1950 when he sold out to Geoff (pop) Sanderson.

Back in 1941 Geoff Sanderson created a trout fly, the Red Setter, probably the wet fly responsible for catching more fish in the Taupo region than any other during this time. Such was the fame and reputation of this tackle shop, the structure was bought and shifted down the street and restored on the present location beside Creel Lodge.

The tackle shop was then owned by the Franks, Frank Schlosser, Frank and Carol Harwood all famous trout fishing guides in the area, the Harwoods still available for guiding.

Then in 1997 Brian Scott (Scotty) bought the Turangi tackle shop and had been there for the past 16 years until Grant & Deb Alley took over and made a few changes, one major development being the extremely successful addition of the now indispensable, Creel Tackle House Cafe.

Which brings us to today...


Creel Tackle House & Creel Tackle House Cafe has recently started a new chapter in their long and rich local fly fishing history with Troutbeck Lodge legends, Jason & Tracey Bethune, taking over as the new owners in July 2021.

No strangers to the world of local fly fishing, Jason & Tracey bring their own slice of fishing history to Creel Tackle House, further enriching the amazing heritage this tackle shop has while also confirming the future is in safe hands.

Jason Bethune | Creel Tackle House

Jason Bethune has an amazing connection the North Island Central Plateau after guiding in the region for longer than most. Not many people know Lake Otamangakau as well as he does, and it's also back country heli missions and the Tongariro River fly fishing right on the Creel's doorstep that Jason has a deep connection with and intimate knowledge of.

A few years back Jason swapped his wading boots for red bands and was back running the family farm, but the call of fly fishing and Creel was too strong so the red bands have been hung up again and the big man is back.

Creek Tackle House Owner Jason Bethune


It's natural to feel some trepidation when a toanga as precious to the fly fishing community as the Creel is goes up for sale. It's been a hub for fishermen in Turangi since day dot and is part of their daily fishing ritual, either sticking their noses in first thing in the morning to get an update on where is fishing well and which flies to use, or reporting back in at the end of the day to share celebrations, or commiserations.

And for those out of town visitors that don't fish, a visit to the Creel Tackle House Cafe for coffee and great food is an immersive experience into the culture of the town and provides a direct window into the world of fly fshing.

The Creel Tackle House & Creel Tackle House Cafe are fly fishing institutions that deserve preservation. You can't buy history but you can be the custodian that protects it while you add your piece of the story into the mix, which is what the Bethune's are planning to do. Small changes are afoot to restoring some of the original fly fishing vibe to the store, product ranges are being tweaked to better suit the demands of the local conditions, and the cafe will be business as usual crafting life saving coffees and life threatening croque monsieurs.

Jason and Tracey Bethune will be injecting their experience and heart and souls into giving the Creel Tackle House the respect it deserves, while continuing to build on the amazing heritage of the most original little tackle shop in New Zealand.

We're looking forward to seeing the new history unfold.

Jason Bethune Fly Fishing Guide