Brett Ozanne

Brett Ozanne is a Perth-based angler, writer, blogger, guide, workshop leader, and film maker.  A result of his work in the later capacity is his well-received movie, “Above the 26th Parallel.”  Perhaps best known as the man behind Yakfishwest, Brett brings to his readers in-depth angling reports, product reviews, and inspirational photos.  Brett’s work can also be seen in Western Angler magazine, where is is the resident kayak angling columnist.  Brett is a member of the Nitro Rods and Sebile Lures Pro Teams, and is supported by Halco Lures, and Ando’s Fishing clothing.

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

It was back in late 2007, I’d been a shore based angler pretty much all my life, and I started to yearn for some offshore fishing.  But after doing all the sums for a new boat, it was just depressing!!  I’d been a regular at the local rock walls, hanging out big baits for Mulloway and Snapper for many years, throwing lures up and down Perth’s Swan River, and was after something new.

Somehow I stumbled across what was the Kayak Fishing Western Australia, and started reading about guys fishing on kayaks.  The community was still quite small here in Perth, but very inviting, so it looked like a lot of fun.  Also being a surfer all my teenage years as well as heavily involved in sailing (with Dad owning yachts), this seemed like a great way to get out on the water, and most importantly, a real challenge!  Wifey also showed a spark of interest once the kayaking side was explained to her, and after a Test Day from the local Hobie dealer, we ordered two kayaks, and never looked back.

Ultimately, the silent cruising through the ocean, with me being in total control of my craft was the selling point.  My father is definitely a strong influence here, we always had yachts when others had power boats, gliders when others had planes, a big, dirty stink boat was never likely to be an option.

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

Absolutely, after I got my Adventure, I was itching to get out on the water, but we were going through a patch of shocking weather.  Weekend after weekend I was housebound, until the weather gods showed mercy and I tagged along with some of the local crew for a trip to Penguin Island.  My first fish was caught that day, and was the classic old “bread and butter” species of Tommy Ruff, or Herring.  A good honest fish I tell myself, took a chunk of prawn under a float, a tried and proven method for gathering a feed of these fellas that has never let me down over the years.

Your recent feature film, Above the 26th Parallel, was largely self-produced and edited.  Describe to us the creative processes involved in the creation of this piece of cinema.

Its funny actually, I have absolutely no training of any kind in film making or producing, but I grew up with a stable diet of Wave Warriors and Bones Brigade videos.  There’s something about the combination of music with great footage that really gets me going, and this is reflected in my movie making style.

When I set out to make “Above the 26th Parallel”, I tried to storyboard, but failed.  So I set out to try to make the viewer feel like they were with me on the yak, and in a sense, flew blindly into it, with very little set scenes to achieve.  I knew with good camera placement, and a decent sound recorder, I could capture the action on the yak well, and really did the majority of the “scripting” as I reviewed the captured film upon returning to Perth.

The location, Wilderness Island, to me is also a very special place, and I wanted to really get the feel of the camp, and the serenity and isolation across to the viewer.  Most importantly, I wanted it to be an expression of my experience, not an instructional, or advertorial style movie as the market is so flooded with this type of material as it is.  I wanted the viewer to get nothing from the movie, except the pure experience of kayak fishing, and understand the restrictions and difficulties one encounters in this medium.  Being fiercely independent in my style as well, it was important to do it as much myself as possible.

I also have 45+ short movies on You Tube at my channel http://www.youtube.com/user/shufoy?feature=mhee where my movie making style has clearly evolved.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

I’m an old school metal head, always have been, and always will be!  To me, nothing gets me fired up and in the mood like ripping guitar tunes, double bass drums, and soaring vocals! Its funny, but the food thing always seems to be the last thing I think off when on my way to the hunt, and more often than not I grab something at the local servo, washing it down with either an energy drink or an iced coffee!


 

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

This is an amazing time for the sport, no question.  It has become big business, and now the manufacturers are definitely driving the sport forward with innovative new products.  Hobie has really set things alight with its Mirage Drive, an entirely new propulsion system that makes it easier to fish, and kayaking in general more accessible to the masses!  There are also companies like Ocean Kayak who continuously bring out kayaks with amazingly forward thinking design for the sole purpose of fishing.  With these companies, the participants are the winners, the market becomes more competitive, and with numerous great kayaks on the market, we can bring our individuality to the fray.

Another factor is the internet.  Anyone with the slightest interest in the sport can now type “kayak fishing” into the internet and be swamped with a flood of inspirational videos on You Tube that would make anyone want to get up of the couch, grab a kayak, and get out on the deep blue chasing sport fish!  To me, this, and the numerous forums full of local, and in depth information make the sport attractive to those with even the smallest temptation to have a go.

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

This is a very simple question to answer, safety.  We are at such a crucial time in the sport here in Australia, still on the crest of a huge boom in the sport where the numbers of kayaks on the water are increasing at a massive rate, yet we are still basically, unregulated.  No one has really stood up in the industry to take responsibility of ensuring the safety of users, or even that they have the correct info at there disposal when they get into the sport.  In Western Australia, we do not even have a set of safety guidelines in place that are specifically designed for kayaking; we simply fall in the bracket of small boat, which creates confusion, and a real lack of intelligent procedure being in place.

I feel it is the veteran members of the sport responsibility to ensure we guide those who are interested in pursuing the “higher” end of kayak fishing, by posting our experiences, and hard learned lessons on the public forums and promoting safety as an integral part of setting yourself up to go kayaking.  This becomes increasingly important as we begin to really push the boundaries of the sport, and don’t want to find ourselves becoming regulated by the powers that be.  Personally, as an example to others, I make it my responsibility to lead by example.

You have penned numerous articles for Western Angler, and through such endeavors, have displayed a writing style that is both narrative and humanistic. How did you get involved with the media side of the sport?

Strangely enough, I’ve never been a writer, or even interested in doing so, but as a son of two school teachers, I’ve always been a good talker, and in a sense, educator of my own accumulated knowledge.  I think it has taken me a long time to work out how to translate this to writing, and as I’ve always been a very active poster of fishing reports, I have, through my passion for the sport, been able to make the transition.  After a few years of posting many such reports, I was eventually offered the chance to write in the Western Angler, where I have found a community of like minded fisher folk I can relate too, learn from and be inspired by.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

This is an easy one!!  We live in Western Australia, the best part of the world!  Why would I want to go anywhere else but further explore this great state!  My dream trip would be loading up a 4×4, and exploring and fishing every inch of our incredible, barely inhabited coastline with guys who are as deeply passionate about the sport as I am.  Long nights by the campfire on the beach, regaling tales of incredible fish that we encounter as we travel, eating freshly caught seafood meals.  Of course, we may need a backup stinkboat from time to time to get us out to some of the more remote islands, but we will leave that out of the stories!

 

What’s in your milk crate?

Its funny, I no longer have a “milkcrate” at all, but I can remember my excitement when I set up my first one!!  I was so proud of the many rod holders, gaff holders, drink holders and holders for pretty much anything I could attach to the yak without it sinking, that I may “just need” one day on the water!!  The milkcrate to me is really like a “white belt” for new Kayak Fisherman, the literal acknowledgement that you want to be apart of this sport, an avenue to release your pent up creativity.  It is your first chance to customize, and add your own ingenuity to an already standard formula that has been done and done again.  As you keenly put up pics of your milkcrate and its additions on your local forum, the wise old veterans all offer encouragement, smirking as they type with the knowing remembrance of their first flirtation with theirs.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

I do have a standout, and its really the best day on the water for me, period, and is a great example of how persistence pays off.  Over the last few years, I have been luckily enough to be involved with the Western Angler Magazine, and as a result found myself guiding a kayak trip each year to an Island in the Exmouth Gulf.  In 2011 we headed up with a group of 10, and experienced a very tough week of fishing.  Only a few of the guys managed to land trophy fish, and I left at the end of the week a little disappointed in what I’d achieved.

That wasn’t to be the end of my holiday though, and with another two weeks up my sleeve I spent the following week in Exmouth, then returned to the Island in the last week for a few days, where my fortunes were to change.  On my last day there, after a stonking party with the caretaker of the Island the previous night, I awoke around midday, a little worse for wear, and though I’d better get out and make the most of my last day.  The weather had totally changed overnight, and previous blue sky was now a dull grey as the cloud had moved in, blanketing out the sun.

I headed south to one of my favorite areas along a rock wall down the back of a remote island, that lead to a long exposed reef at the end, with gutters, and lots of tidal movement.  Barely halfway down my run, with a few of my favorite lures out on the troll, I was smashed by a formidable beast of a fish, that inevitably bricked me on the unfriendly coral bombies skirting the dropoff.  I re-rigged, and soon after starting the troll again, was hooked up again to a hard fighting Queenfish, which let fly I an acrobatic display that would leave a stunt pilot envious!

I managed to land this fish, and over the course of the next 4 hours, had an amazingly hot session landing 8 trophy sized fish, and losing many others comprising of Queenies and Golden Trevally.  All big fish, all hard fighting, and only my own self control in actively removing my lures from the water and turning for camp ensured I got home before dusk, with a face splitting smile permanently etched into my face.

An incredible way to end a trip, a day all fisherman would love to experience, and I did it all by myself, with not a single other soul in sight.  Pure bliss.

What is the kayak angler lifestyle?

To me the Kayak fishing lifestyle is good friends, great water, and amazing fish.  Biting off more that you can chew in a piscatorial sense, getting into water that the boaters can’t.  Also in a way, the kayak angler lifestyle is how it adapts into your existing lifestyle, the ease of launching and transporting means you can slip in an easy fish without burning the candle at both ends.

 

Tell us a story, any story.

A few months back I’d been telling Scott Coghlan about my recent success with Pink Snapper, very early season fish, that I’d stumbled across well before there due date by a mixture of experience and dumb luck.  These were exceptional fish, thick, broad shouldered, bull headed Snapper, that had been gorging themselves on an abundance of food that was currently in every corner of Cockburn Sound.

Pink Snapper was a fish on Scotty’s wish list that was yet to grace the decks of his kayak.  After hearing of my success, he asked me to take him out for a trip, so we arranged an evening mission later that week.  I’d talked up my success enough, so I was hoping to be able to replicate it with the Coghlan.

While cruising into the night on our way to my honey hole, I see it, coming up on the right side screen, a small mass of light coloured peanuts suspended up to 1-2m of the bottom, 8-10m to my right.  I casually mention to Scotty, “There’s some Snapper there mate!”, his reply is one of reference to bovine fecal matter so I rotate the sounder screen to face him just as they also started to appear under us.

I launched a soft plastic toward the epicenter of the school, let it sink, then as I went to lift – BANG! I was smashed, and my braid pinged above the leader, leaving both of us stunned!  I yelled to Scott, “get a plastic in there mate!!” He complies and casts into the zone and within a few seconds, he comes up solid!

The braid sings off the reel and Scott’s yak spins around, as the fish runs for cover, a yell of triumph sings through the air, as the tussle begins. I’m head down, rummaging like a vagrant through a bin searching for leader, scissors and some jigheads, soon I’m rigged and a jighead and plastic fly off into the night.  I look over to see the piscatorial ballet executing to my right, and before my lure gets too deep, my rod buckles, and I’m joining the Coghlan on stage in my tutu.

The two of us circle within a tight 40m diameter, giving each other running commentaries of our contest’s as we go.  My fish is giving a solid account of itself, slugging it out deep on the broken bottom, slowly I work the fish back to the yak, and as I see colour, Scotty still seems thick in combat.

The fish breaks the surface as it rolls on it’s side exposing the flank, I can see it’s a brutish Pink.  It continues to resist even after I manage to get it’s head in the silicon net, and lever upwards to consume the entire bulk of the Snapper.  At this point my celebration is short lived as Scott yells for the net, I propel the net into Scott’s grasp, he scoops up his fish and yells in triumph to the fishing Gods!!  We roar in agreement to the glory of our achievements, high fiving and yahooing as we inspect each other’s fish, both astounded as to the size!

Contemplating the condition of these Snapper, both were thick, and broad shouldered, easily 4-5 inches across, but what struck us both was the differing shape between the two fish, taken from presumably the same school. Scott’s fish, long and well proportioned came in at and looked an easy 18lbs, his best, and first Pink Snapper from the yak.  Mine would have weighed 16lbs, but was 15cm shorter than it’s brother, tall, low slung, with an impressive girth.  Unforgettable captures for us both! What an amazing night, to be able to get Scotty on a fish, on artificials, and on the yak.  Definitely stuff of fisherman’s dreams, and a night we will both never forget.

Your website, Yakfishwest, through detailed explanation and photographic accounts, offers readers an extensive wealth of information pertaining to kayak rigging and tackle selection.  For instance, your article on swivel selection calls to mind a Consumer Reports-esque diligence. From where do you attribute your analytical style?

I think it stems from writing with honesty, an as you see it approach.  Ive always looked at fishing with the same eyes I viewed my trade as a Boilermaker.  Trying to break things down, not assume anything, and analyze to the nth degree.  The 1%’s have always been important to me, and I hate to have something let me down, and look back later thinking I could have prevented that, or should have though of that.  I rarely sleep well the night before a fishing trip, simply because my mind is already on the water.

 

As a prolific provider of angling reports, you have recounted many of your on-water adventures. What makes a good fish story?

The best fishing stories are the ones where you get the full gamut of emotions well translated in the text.  The excitement, dismay, and delight, to feel what the angler is feeling, and wish you could share the experience.  To me, I get as much of a kick out of a great story as experiencing it for myself.  I say you can never hold back enough when describing the pulsing kick of the tail, or the resonating scream of the braid singing through the guides. Make me feel it, and I’ll want to read it!

What does the future hold for you?

Tough one to answer.  As I write this, we are expecting the birth of our first child, so the future for me will be heavily influenced by this new arrival.  It will be interesting to see how this will effect my time on the water, and how I approach my fishing.  I look forward to bringing our child into the sport, and preparing them for kayak fishing as they grow up.

I certainly look forward to more trips to northern Western Australia, and exploring more of our beautiful state, and hopefully capturing some more epic fish on film as well, and sharing the experience that is Kayak Fishing with as many people as possible.

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