by Jon Novoselac

Image of Paul Bourne

In early 2012, I was lucky enough to spend a day on the Murrumbidgee River with Paul Bourne from Cooma. It was a blustery early autumn day… cool, but pleasant. I wasn’t clever enough to land a fish that day, but Paul helped my good friend Chad bring a Snowy Mountain rainbow to hand.

Paul was recently kind enough to answer a few questions for me. I’ve reminded myself to take some notes; he has almost 40 years of experience up his sleeves. Here’s what he had to say.

Tell me a little about yourself.

“I’m originally from South Australia and started fly fishing there in the early 1980s as a sideline to surfing. I was a keen surfer and was looking for something to fill in time when the surf was flat. It didn’t take long for me to become interested in the trout rumoured to be in the Adelaide Hills. I quickly joined the South Australian Fly Fishers Association, as membership was mandatory to gain access to the limited number of trout streams there. The keener I became, the more willing I was to travel to fly fish, as opposed to surfing, which became the norm. I became a regular visitor to the Snowy Mountains and Monaro (the Monaro was fantastic in the 1980s and early 1990s) as well New Zealand and Tassie. I just loved the outdoor experience and did plenty of hiking in those places.”

What’s your earliest fishing memory?

“I used to fish with my brother and Dad as a little kid. Mostly from wharves and jetties, but nothing very serious.”

What’s the best time of year to go fishing in the Snowy Monaro?

“The Snowy Monaro is a pretty diverse fishery – that’s why I like it and any time of the season can be good. As has been seen over the last couple of seasons, the weather and conditions, including rainfall, vary tremendously. Every year is different. I’d say the first two weeks and last month or so are my least personal favourite times as spawn run fishing tends to be all that is available and the fishing can be very fickle and unreliable.”

How often do you get out?

“Our season lasts for about 35 weeks and I spend an average of four to five days per week on the water, divided roughly in half by guiding and my own fishing. I enjoy doing my homework!”

Break down your equipment for me. What rod and reel do you prefer?

“I have had too much gear at times but these days I have a couple of rods I use most often. For small to medium Australian streams I prefer bamboo, and use a medium/fast taper seven foot four-weight Taransky bamboo rod. Nick Taransky, another ex-South Aussie, is a very good mate of mine.

“On our larger waters, such as the Eucumbene and Thredbo, I use an eight and a half foot five-weight Orvis Mid Flex Helios. I like it as it has some feel. It’s pleasing to cast and isn’t what I call a “broom handle”; IE – not too fast.

“I also like Hardy fly reels and small Peerless reels. I enjoy the history and tradition in fly fishing and these reels just plain work, which is more than I can say for some of the newer offerings out there.”

What’s the one important thing you shouldn’t forget when you go fishing in the Snowy Monaro?

“Most people seem to forget that they aren’t called the Snowy Mountains for nothing! The weather here is diverse and, like most temperate to alpine regions, conditions can be harsh, so be sure to pack some suitable clothing. Trout wouldn’t likely be here if the climate wasn’t cold.”

What makes fishing in the Snowy Monaro so special?

“As I mentioned, the Snowy Monaro has a lot of diversity in stream and river types. I like them all and am happy on a pokey bush creek, a meandering meadow spring creek or a mountain freestone river. I do think that when the region fishes well it provides the best river/stream fishing in Australia.”

Tell me about some of your favourite fishing spots.

“I don’t have favourites as such. Every season sees changing conditions, and a river that was great last year can be slow this year. Australia is a land of boom and bust and our trout fishery reflects that. We are a semi-arid continent and are lucky to have a trout fishery in the first place. So I also strongly believe in protecting our fishery. I promote catch and release, of course.”

Interviewer’s note: the image below, which appears on Paul’s website, is the type of water he spends his time on. No wonder he likes it.

Image of Snowy Monaro stream

Tell me about your best catch.

“I’ve caught some great fish over the years, some reasonably large – nine or so pounds. Never a double figure fish, and haven’t really tried too hard in that regard. One of the most memorable was a hard fighting North Island brown of six odd pounds that took me half a kilometre downstream after tearing upstream through heavy water. I landed it about 30 minutes after it took the fly. New Zealand has a great average size, so like most people it leaves lasting memories in my mind of good fishing. These days I enjoy the total experience and just love being on healthy trout water in beautiful surroundings.”

I’m coming to the Snowy Monaro to fish. Where should I stay?

“The Snowies have a wealth of accommodation options as it’s also Australia’s premier skiing region, so locating yourself has more to do with choosing from various options that suit your trip. I’m in Cooma because it’s central, and I can find trout in every direction.”

Thanks very much, Paul. There are some great insights here. I think it’s time for me to schedule a trip back to the Snowy Monaro. I’ll be in touch…