Air Sculpting

Air Sculpting

Andy Dear | Sunday, 5 January 2020

You can't always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.
---Frank Zappa

  My very first real job back in 1987 was that of a maintenance technician at a local fitness center. It was a fantastic gig, mainly because I was but a young lad of 17, and the minimum age to join said fitness center was 21. Subsequently, I had the opportunity to be adopted into a social group of folks whose age, maturity and experience level was a fair bit more advanced than my own. There were a number of "unique" characters that frequented this place, but one, in particular, stands out in my memory above the rest. His name was Matt, and he was about 35 years old at the time I met him. Matt and I got to be pretty good friends because we both shared a mutual love of who I consider to be one of the acknowledged masters of outer limits, convention defying music, the great Frank Zappa. I was also a young guitar player at the time and had only recently discovered Zappa's Music, but Matt, because of his age had been a fan for well over a decade at that point.

  Zappa fans tend to be a bit of a strange a good way of course. You almost have to be a bit off kilter to really "get" Frank Zappa's combination of musical virtuosity coupled with his sense of irony and comedy. Matt certainly fit this mold, and was a peculiar guy with an odd blend of personality traits. He was a handsome fellow with a body builder like physique, but was also very much of a quiet loner who stayed to himself most of the time. In spite of his apparent shyness, he ironically enough, took great pleasure in ocasionally drawing attention to himself in a myriad of strange ways. The most common of which involved loudly reciting obscure Frank Zappa song lyrics in front of about 25 spandex laden females doing aerobic exercises in the fitness room.  It was equal parts of extreme awkwardness, and gut-busting hilarity to witness him randomly but compulsively shout "IS THAT A REAL MEXICAN PANCHO OR A SEARS PANCHO?" or "ONE LEG'S LONGER THAN THE OTHER AND BOTH OF MY FEETS ARE TOO SMALL!". Or my personal favorite phrase from the spoken word song Nanook of the North, Matt would loudly shout in a crowd of people GREEEAAAAT GOOOOOOGLY MOOOOOOGLEY!!! He had several other favorite Zappa lines as well, none of which are fit to print in polite company. All of them however elicited a similar response of strange looks, along with the occasional complaint to the manager of the gym about the wacko on the exercise bike yelling unintelligible gibberish about panchos and uneven legs. 

  I left that job in the summer of 1989 and moved on to bigger and better things, and unfortunately never saw Matt again. But, I've never forgotten the great music that he introduced me to, which as a side note also included Pink Floyd's often overlooked 1977 masterpiece, Animals. And, even though my passion for playing and studying the guitar has faded significantly over the past 20 years (along with much of my hearing). I still occasionally enjoy revisiting the music that had a significant influence on my younger life, and Frank Zappa would certainly fall into that category. Recently while perusing some of his more obscure deeper cuts on the internet, I stumbled across a quote from the Maestro himself that struck me as having more than a fair amount of relevance to my chosen art of the last 25 casting.

“Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.”

Upon reading the above quote, my one track mind immediately said "insert the term fly casting in place of the word music"

“Fly Casting in performance is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.”

After typing that out, I sat here for about 20 minutes trying to put together some clever comparative analysis of how the formation of a loop, and the motion(s) of the casting stroke, and the manipulation of the rod as a tool could be considered a type of "air sculpting". But, it sounded so pretentious and arrogant that I scrapped it altogether. I figured it much more apropriate to simply throw the quote out there for you guys to think about and interpret in your own way.

  And speaking of arrogance and pretentiousness, when I reminded myself that Zappa was also the guy who warned us to "WATCH OUT WHERE THE HUSKIES GO AND DONT YOU EAT THAT YELLOW SNOW", it was indeed confirmation not to take any of this, including fishing, myself, and more importantly LIFE, so damned seriously. Having said that, I do find the term "air sculpting" to be a unique and descriptive perspective on the aerial nature of our sport, and one that has inspired a subtle artistic alteration in the way I now view the nature of the fly cast.

In the meantime I'm going to have a listen to the Zappa masterpiece, Watermelon in Easter Hay. If you've never heard this beautiful guitar instrumental, you owe yourself a listen. It is quite possibly the perfect musical backdrop for some serious Air Sculpting with a 6wt.

Hope you all have a great week,