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“To Explore Strange New Worlds…”

Fly Fishing Two-Story Lakes and Reservoirs

A Book Review By Joe Cornwall

There are few anglers today who possess the necessary skills and knowledge to approach large, deep lakes with anything like a well though-out strategy.  Certain highly competitive and highly skilled bass and walleye anglers make up the bulk of the practitioners who are capable of looking at the flat, featureless expanse of a 200+ acre lake and understanding, on an intuitive level, where to go and what to do.  The percentage of anglers approaching these large bodies of water with fly rod in hand, especially those with substantial areas more than 6-feet deep, is a fraction of a fraction of a single percent.  Considering there is an order of magnitude more productive, fishable water in the lake areas known as the metalimnion and hypolimnion than there is in all the shallow bays, creeks and rivers combined, one must wonder why this remains a resource so under-explored by the fly fishing fraternity.  Perhaps it’s time for us to “to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Earlier this year John Mordock contacted me with a request to use a few pictures of flies I’ve tied that are published here on Fly Fish Ohio on-line magazine.  He wanted to use them in a new book he was preparing.  I’d never met John and I still haven’t (though I hope to change that last fact sometime soon).  I had no idea what his book was about or to whom it was targeted.  All I knew is that his inquiry was polite and respectful and that was enough for me to agree to let him use the pictures.  About two months ago he sent me a copy of his 223 page effort, titled Fly Fishing Two-Story Lakes and Reservoirs.  It’s rare for me to read a book three times over and take notes from it, but that’s just what happened when I dove into John’s work.  Mordock has truly charted a path to a strange new world, complete with new civilizations (of fish).  I think this book, along with Reed Curry’s New Scientific Angling, may just be one of the most important books on fly fishing that I’ve read in the last year!

A two-story lake, according to Mordock, is one where “warm water fish occupy [the] warm surface layers and trout and salmon occupy their deep, coldwater layers.”  According to Mordock, “only five states in the United States have lakes that don’t support trout”, but the beauty of this book is that Mordock’s observations and suggested techniques are as important for taking smallmouth and largemouth, pike and muskie, walleye and perch as they are for hooking the various landlocked salmonids.   There are precious few books that explore the arcane (but highly traditional) art of trolling and mooching with a fly rod.

The second and third chapters of this book alone are worth the purchase price.  Titled “Understanding Vertical Currents And Stratification” and “Understanding Horizontal Currents” respectively, these are a concise and useful treatment of material every angler should understand.  In particular, Mordock provides exemplary treatment of the effects of seiche waves and their effect on the depth, thickness and action of the thermocline.  Seiche waves are a “sloshing” of water back and forth in a lake that may be caused by several conditions.  What’s important is recognizing how they may produce current and affect temperature both at the surface and at the thermocline.

Mordock’s treatise goes on to explore forage species, gamefish behavior, fly patterns and rigging.  There are precious few books in the fly fishing lexicon that even attempt to cover trolling with a fly much beyond advising one to drag a wooly bugger around behind the boat when changing locations.  Mordock is clearly a master at trolling a fly, an art form created and perfected by the very pioneers who created the streamer fly itself.  Mordock’s enthusiasm for trolling and mooching come through in his delightfully personal technique of sharing past conversations with his “grandpop”, and through that connection with the reader.

The book itself is densely written and could benefit from a professional edit to clean up minor mistakes of layout and flow.  The black and white images are sometimes manipulated to fit a space, resulting in some distortion of aspect ratio in the original composition.  These are trivial criticisms and do not reflect on the content, which is superb. Additionally you’ll find that Mordock has a strong opinion on independent fly shops and their competition with big box discounters and price-first vendors.  In an effort to support independent fly shops and small book vendors, John has decided that his “fly fishing books would be placed only with shops owned by individuals or families and not with discounters.”  Contact your local fly shop or go directly to www.mordocksflyfishingbooks.com to purchase your copy of this, or any of Mordock’s five other angling books.

Fly Fishing Two Story Lakes (ISBN 978-1-58776-911-5) is published by Hudson House Publishing and is available for $23.95.

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