Confessions of a Crappy Caster

Hello, my name is Trevor Shpeley and I’m standing before you today because I am a crappy caster.


Yes I admit it, I am powerless over my crappy casting and my line has become unmanageable.

I didn’t always know I was a crappy caster. I started out as a budding young fly-fisherman fishing creeks and small rivers. A quick flick of the line and the fly was pretty much where I wanted it. It wasn’t tough to master a bumpy roll-cast that would get me a little farther and when I really needed to hammer it out there, a 20- or 30-foot overhead cast was all I needed and was well-within my abilities. Since it didn’t get caught in the bushes behind me at least 20 percent of the time, I figured I was doing pretty well. I caught lots of fish and therefore knew what I was doing. Life was good. Then I tried fishing lakes.


I purchased a float tube from an American company shortly after they first became available commercially and to call it rudimentary would be doing a disservice to rudimentary things everywhere. It was pretty much just an old patched up truck tire inner tube with some webbing to keep me from falling through the hole in the middle. I had some similarly primitive neoprene waders that leaked like a Whitehouse press secretary and were, gasp, baggy! (It’s been awhile since I could make that claim.) Nonetheless, they got me out to where the fish were rising. I was so full of confidence, bolstered by the fact there were very few bushes out in the middle of the lake to catch my fly on, that I just started casting.

It went stunningly well. My cast rocketed out from my rod tip without a hitch and my fly settled on the water in front of me, twenty feet in front of me! Close enough to me that I could actually see the fish laugh as they took one look at the guy in rubber pants getting a truck-tire wedgy and swim away to what I presume was a less amusing part of the lake. It was clear that I was going to have to learn how to cast.


The first thing I did was evaluate my equipment. In those days I was fishing a seven-foot 4wt because that’s what the American magazines that I learned how to fly-fish from told me to use. I was also using 12 feet of knotted leader that tapered down to a diameter that would make a spider jealous. That worked fine if I didn’t have to actually cast the line and as long as where I fished a ten-inch fish was worthy of a Hemmingway-esque saga to my friends and family. It was time for new gear.

Since all my fly-fishing education had come from tweed bedecked gentlemen back east I knew right away that I needed a Hardy rod. Better get a Hardy reel too. Also, there was this new thing called graphite they were using to throw line farther than ever before possible with the more pedestrian fiberglass and even, dare I say it, bamboo! So I ordered myself the brand-newly available Hardy graphite rod and their cheapest reel which I had been assured “sang like a nightingale” when a fish ran line out. (I didn’t know what a normal reel sounded like because I had never had opportunity to hear it) I bought it without my young wife’s permission.

You have to remember that this was in the 1980s and the nation was experiencing double digit unemployment. I had been laid-off from my job and was eking out a meager living selling vacuum cleaners door to door. To say my wife was unimpressed at the fact that I had spent more than a months rent on a fishing rod at this time is like saying Tunkwa Lake gets a “little” windy. I knew I was in trouble; I hadn’t seen that look since I bought a two-seater Datsun 4×4 when she was seven-months pregnant. She got over it eventually, more or less, and I took delivery of what was surely the coolest rod in Castlegar at the time, an eight-foot Hardy graphite 8wt.

The new rod had a very distinct action, one that I now refer to as “casts like a mop handle”. It was top heavy and it wouldn’t have bent if I tied the line to a Volkswagen. It wasn’t pretty but if I got a lot of line out in front of me that baby would load up. In fact, I could stand in the school field and throw a cast like nobody’s business. I was Lefty Kreh with a magic fishing wand, surely nothing could stop me now. I could fish for fish on the other side of the lake, effortlessly picking them off like minnows in a barrel. Well, that was the theory anyway.

When I actually strapped on my tube and hit the lake the results were a little less impressive. That was the day I learned what a trailing loop was. It was also the day I learned about removing a hook from the back of my own head. I persevered and pretty soon 40 feet was within my grasp and I was catching fish again. Life was good.

Now I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that with a little practice, maybe a few lessons and some better gear I could get really good at it and you know what? I thought that too but there is one thing you need to know about me. I’m lazy. Not a little bit lazy, I’m a whole lot of lazy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll go to any length to accomplish whatever I want to accomplish but once I get to that point, the foot is off the accelerator and I’m coasting. I could cast far enough to catch fish, I figured I’d get better over time so I just fished and didn’t worry too much about it. Life was good.

And that brings us to today. Since those scary beginnings I have indeed gotten a ton of practice. I own a lot of first class gear, state of the art lines, I even know how to cast properly and can do it if I really want to, but I never do. Instead I cast just as far as I need to. I don’t worry too much about my fly slapping the water on either side of me because hey, who wants to catch a timid fish anyway? Instead of eliminating my trailing loops, I now compensate for them in mid-cast and can get my fly and leader through unscathed, most of the time. I can feel when a cast is unrecoverable and have no shame when it comes to just dropping the line and starting over. I can even untangle my line one handed rather than just coil it in the boat properly in the first place. Why you ask? I’m lazy remember? So lazy in fact that I’m willing to use twice as much skill fishing sloppily rather than take the time to do it right.

Again, it’s not that I don’t know how to cast, in fact I’ve been taught by some of the best and I can be pretty decent with just a little focus. I just don’t see the point and it’s the fish’s fault. The fish really don’t care most of the time. I’m not the greatest fisherman in the world but I have plenty of days where I out-fish buddies who are world-class fly-fishermen. I sight-fish successfully on crystal-clear shoals and ya I spook a few but I catch a few too. Dumb luck? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I just fish to be happy. Concentrating on my form too much does not make me happy; in fact I just end up tense and frustrated every time I flop a cast that I was really trying to make. When I am just casting away without thinking about it too much I am in my element and the fish seem to respect that.

I catch fish. I cast as gracefully as a three-legged moose on a frozen pond but I catch fish and that’s all that really matters isn’t it? Let the other guys impress their buddies with their gorgeous 90-foot casts; I’m sure they are having fun but they aren’t having more fun than me. My name is Trevor Shpeley and I’m a crappy caster. Life is good.