Meet Brett Seng

Photo by Ashlee Newman

If you saw the latest Confluence Film production, “Waypoints”, then you likely saw the Chile segment that featured two fly-fishing guides from Bozeman, MT: Brett Seng and Greg Bricker. I had the pleasure of meeting Brett recently while he was on a layover in Seattle to discuss his part on the film and the possibility of collaborating on writing/photography work in the future. Immediately, I could tell we shared the same ideas and thoughts on how our work could potentially come together. He is ultimately looking for someone who can help put words to his outdoor photos, and I need someone who can capture some of the moments I write about in fly-fishing. Writing and photography is fairly synonymous in the freelance world, but it’s not something everyone has skills in both equally, so it helps to have those connections. Those two trades are also something you can collaborate on without being in the same place, which makes finding people to work with a little easier.

About a week prior to meeting Brett, I was honored to be asked by Ross Purnell (Editor of Fly Fisherman Magazine) to write a film review about “Waypoints” for the magazine. After relaying this news to Brett during our meeting, I was pleasantly surprised when he offered to let me interview him to help put a unique perspective on my review.

Before I dive into the interview itself, here is some background on the interviewee:

(Brett Seng with a trout caught in Chile while guiding in 2011)

Brett has been a fly-fishing guide in Montana for over ten years and got into professionally capturing photos just over a year ago. Before moving to Montana when he was eighteen, Brett grew up on a farm in Illinois, where his parents still live and raise and board horses. Aside from fly-fishing and photography, he is an avid snowboarder and bow hunter.  (See some of his work here: Brett Seng Photography

Photo by Ashlee Newman

This was my first time actually interviewing anyone as I am not a journalist, but this was a fun experiment, and I appreciate Brett allowing me to do this and taking the time to speak with me.

So here it is…

Me: To start with, tell me a little bit about your background in guiding and photography.

Brett: Well, I started guiding through my summers in college so I could ski the winter without working as a snowboard instructor, which at the time to me was glorified slave labor in trade for a ski pass. I got a job working for a small outfit in Big Sky who hosted horseback day trips and fly fishing. I worked there two seasons and guided mainly wade fishermen and newbies as a majority. No one on earth has taken more flies out of the bushes from the back-cast than me, I credit my patience to those two beginning seasons. I’m confident I could take an SAT test in a daycare after chocolate milk time, and no ear plugs. The past eight of a ten year career has been split guiding between Bozeman and Twin Bridges, Montana. I’ve learned a lot from my peers and credit the diversity of my knowledge to the variety of waters I’ve guided on and those who taught me the waters’ complex characteristics.

As for photography, I learned the basics from my mom growing up. She’s a bronze artist, and I would watch her shoot subjects as a child. It was her composition for light that caught my interest. What sold it for me as an adult, was modeling for Brian Grossenbacher, who I highly respect and consider my favorite lifestyle photographer. He created the monster that I became to start exploring light as a still photographer. I launched myself into the professional photographer shoes last January of 2013. Hard work is paying off. We don’t appreciate the things we don’t earn the hard way, and so far so great. I’m loving the new career path.

Me: What is your favorite place that you have traveled to so far?

Brett: Favorites places…. New Zealand takes the gold in my eyes. Montana will always be my resting place. In all the travels to far away trout fisheries, ironically, have made me more and more grateful for the fishery I have right out the back door. Montana is world-class, and I can say that because I’ve seen the majority from comparison. Getting back to why New Zealand is my favorite place I have traveled to, I think the mentality of good character and kindness run deep in the people of that country, which is right at home in the state of Montana, so I find comfort in that while I explore. The fishery there is large trout, typically 24″ or better, all sight-casting and technical. I’m a bow hunter so it fits nicely with me. You see the fish you’re trying to catch, hunting for the right casting position, and watching every single detail from body language of the trouts’ interest to the slow eat that follows. I think both trout and trout fly-fishermen die and find themselves in a setting just like New Zealand. I’m hoping that anyways. I’ll know a couple good spots to start when I get there:)

Me: What is your favorite species of fish to fight on a fly rod?

Brett: As for the fight of any fish, I find myself less and less interested in that aspect. I’m finding that the draw for me is in the eat. I love that moment where you watch a fish commit to a fly with the ultimate confidence as their source of obtainable food. For that reason, along with the characteristics of the fight, aerial display, and hearty soul, I’d have to give my vote to tarpon. I’ll hire a tarpon guide instead of paying the mortgage with a smile on my face… every time.

Me: Tell me three main highlights of your experience being on the Atmosphere in “Waypoints”.

Brett: Three!? Okay. Having that experience with good friends along with meeting some new ones goes to the top of my list, I get the most fulfillment out of that from any trip. The next two would be the helicopter access we had each day, I got so fired up each morning and each day returning via chopper. That’s man-kinds’ sweetest creation no doubt. The fishing goes without saying as a highlight, but to be honest, the last experience I would mention that ties them all together was our pilot Arturo’s signature comment before departing to and from the rivers/lakes. Once the heli was full throttle for lift, all systems check, he’d get on the intercom and say in a perfect mixture of his Spanish accent/English words: “Okay…. Let’s go.” with this smooth, calm and confident tone that made the moment so badass, and with good friends around me to hear the same, it was the perfect beginning and ending to the flights.

Me: How long were you on the ship?

Brett: Six days of fishing and seven nights aboard the Atmosphere. I pouted and stomped my feet like a six-year-old leaving the Disney Cruise when I departed.

Me: Greg Bricker said on the film that fishing with Andres Ergas was like fishing with the “Dos Equis guy”. Do you agree that Ergas is “the world’s most interesting man” as well?

Brett: I think Dos Equis Corp. messed up by not finding Andres Ergas first. I completely agree with Greg. The best part of Andres is that you cannot help but sense the same gratitude each and every time you fish the water he hosted us on. He’s an extremely talented, modest, and kind man. He is all smiles, taking in what we did like it was his first time as well, even though the guy might have been there a hundred days prior. I’m proud to know such a man, with the genuine spirit of who he is among the power and wealth of his life.

Me: Do you foresee being in any other fly-fishing films in the future?

Brett: Not really. The film has inspired me to capture more of what is out there, through the eyes of creative minds and all the amazing technology that can deliver the concepts. Time will tell, but it doesn’t matter to me really. I’m taking advantage and enjoying every moment even if the camera never rolls on me again.

Me: Where is one place that you haven’t been to yet that you want to travel to for fly-fishing and/or photography?

Brett: I would love to see Cuba before Castro dies and the States are allowed back in there and mess it all up. I want to see the Cuban women dancing to local salsa in the streets, ride in some old Chevy 150’s, fish the flats for tarpon with a hand-rolled Cuban cigar in my pocket– which I bought from the guy that roll it on the docks. That’s next on the list. I feel time is of the essence.

Me: Tell me some of the upcoming photography projects you have on the horizon. Any upcoming trips planned?

Brett: I just wrapped up a shoot for KEEN footwear. I’m excited about the progression of that relationship that is unfolding at the moment. They are wonderful to work with and truly find the positives of what goals we are trying to reach. As for fly-fishing, I head to the south island of New Zealand in January for a month-long trip. I plan to fish new water, explore some new ideas for my photography I’ve been daydreaming about, and try to get better at surfing. I love surfing for it’s simplicity. No lift ticket, no expensive accessories, just a piece of foam and a wetsuit to get the personal expression started. I’m counting the days… flies are tied up, gear is half-way packed… I’m throwing down on a new camera body which is going to hurt my stack of fun tickets, but I think it’s worth it in the long run. Life is good Lisa, you’ll never hear me complain.

Me: (Now for the typical interview question that everyone has to ask) Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

Brett: I cannot see myself in 10 days, let alone 10 years! I don’t know a good answer. I hope I find myself still learning a lot, working smarter with my brain instead of harder with my back. I hope the wisdom of age continues, and I hope to have a family to share some of these experiences with. The only thing I fear at this point, is sitting around the camp fire telling three dogs all my life’s journey instead of three of my own children.


Thanks for reading!

~Lisa S.

Categories: Interview, Photography

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