Fishing with Lenny Leonard + Adam Tondu, a day with Doug Kilpatrick
Earlier last week I spent a day as Adam Tondu’s guest on Lenny Leonard’s boat. Lenny is one of my closest friends and someone who’s company I enjoy immensely, and Adam is someone that I met first through the shop when Lenny was bitten by a lemon shark and couldn’t make their booked days. Adam and I ended up sharing a day with Aaron Snell, and the following year he returned to the Keys to fish with Lenny post-injury, maintaining these days every year since. In every odd and tumbling way, Adam’s is a typical Key West tarpon story.
We started early, and Lenny found us within range of a large rolling spread of tarpon in short order. Adam was up first, and had a number of great casts in to the group of rolling fish. He had a total of maybe six bites, a fair number of these coming from multiple fish on a single cast, but was unable to retain any tension. We kept up with the school until they regrouped in deeper water that we were unable to access, and returned to a shallow bank to see if we could get another crack at some shallow swimmers. I was up at this point, and after a bit of repositioning Lenny had us in range of a fish that would roll every 5 minutes on a shallow grass bank. We took a cast in its direction each time it came up, and while we would occasionally move toward another group of fish we were always called back to the single roller that wouldn’t leave. After returning to within its range we finally got a cast in the right direction and just after a roll, finally hooking the fish for our efforts. We fought this fish hard for a short period, nearly floating it before learning the limits (once again) of 16 lb tippet.
Afterwards we moved on, the light higher now, and shifted our focus to sight fishing. Lenny found an edge he liked, and I poled for a bit to switch things up. Adam didn’t have any shots on our first pass, and on our second we rotated. I was on the bow, Lenny now poling. A large group of fish crossed in front of us on the way towards some deeper water, and Lenny pushed us hard for 100 yards before we got a good enough angle for a bite. This fish was smaller than the one we lost earlier, though the outcome was better: we floated the fish, grabbed it and turned it loose without a feathered lip ring:
In the later afternoon Adam was up, overcoming some casting difficulty with a beautiful backhand that attached him to a large fish. This was a great thing to watch, and I have to give Adam some credit: getting the best out of yourself when things are tough is rare, and for my part watching someone overcome some adversity and do everything right is exactly what I hope for the most–both for myself and anyone else. The fish took a shifty run over some very shallow bottom before heading to the deeper water, and for the next half-hour Lenny and I watched the battle. Adam gave a good account of himself for the duration before the fight ended with an opened hook and we kept on in hopes of more.
The afternoon led us to some seriously frustrating fishing. Lenny found us a number of large laid up tarpon, all of which were impossible to beg a bite off of. I stayed on the bow for the remainder of the day, trying everything I could to make one of the black-backed dragons crack but never able to get it right. We finished a great day of fishing with a sour taste, and I made up my mind to give these [no need for that type of language here]’s a try tomorrow with Doug.
Doug and I fished the following day, and we both had a high set of expectations. We awaited a push that never came in the morning, then moved on in search of finding some of the monsters that eluded Team Leonard the day before. We searched for hours nearby, never finding any of what we sought.
The day plodded on, and halfway through it we decided that the best thing to do was dig in our heels and grind out some fishing where we knew a few would swim by. We had a handful of lo-fi shots, not convincing a fish to volunteer until the afternoon. On the third cast to a small string of fish we came tight to the last in line, a smaller fish after which we gave chase. I pulled on the fish for a few minutes before the hook pulled, and we returned to the spot to wait for another. After another half hour of fishless expectation we moved on, simply in search of some new scenery and (hopefully) a change of pace.
In the last hour of fishing we were able to get a bite from another little fish that tossed the hook on a jump, and after a few more shots at surly schools we called it a day.
I’d like to thank Adam for the invite, and Lenny and Doug for the hard work.
Last week I fished with John and Ian for a few days, but I may incorporate those reports in to the post Golden Fly report which I’ll write when the smoke’s cleared after the tournament. The weather looks tough, so things will be fun.
More to come,