Derry Kingston keeps three fly rods in the cab of his Freightliner and fishes all over America on his long hauls. But he also fly-fishes the remote southern Philippines.
Derry Kingston parked his Freightliner by an inviting stretch of water in the Deep South, one that held the promise of some good, fighting bass.
He clambered down from the cab and took his fly-fishing rod and tackle with him. On the water was a local fisherman in a powerful bass boat, fishing the traditional way. He watched Kingston get ready and move down to the water. “Hey mister,” called the bass-boater with a grin, “you’re never gonna catch anything with that in here.” Chuckling, he kept fishing while Kingston began to work his fly line out into the water.
“He was what you might call an old-fashioned kind of fisherman, I guess,” says Kingston. “And I don’t know what made him madder, when I pulled a five-pound bass out of the water, or when I unhooked it and threw it back in.”
Kingston, 38, hauls a flatbed for PFT Roberson across the lower 48, and he has fished with flies in 29 of those states along the way. (“And I’ll get at all 48 before I’m done,” he says.) He’s also fished with flies in Mexico, the Philippines and Canada. He’s strictly a catch-and-release guy with a passion for trout but a willingness to try any game fish, fresh or salt water. He almost always uses extremely sharp, barbless hooks (although tuna and other species can require regular hooks), the better to do less damage to the fish and the better to slip back out of lily pads or weed banks.
But if fly fishing isn’t going to work, Kingston is happy to do some traditional fishing just to get out on the water. On a recent trip to Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula in northwestern Mexico, he would have been the only fly fisherman on a boatload of regular guys down from the States for a day of blue water sport fishing. “There was no way, so I joined them,” he says, and got into some fish, hauling in some especially big wahoo.
Using a light rod, heavy line and weightless lure of threads tied to a hook to resemble an insect or tiny minnow was something Kingston got used to early in life.
“I’ve been fly fishing since I was 3 years old,” says the driver born in southern California. “My dad always had a rod in his hand, and he taught me from the time I could hold one. My parents were divorced, and my dad and I moved up to Stockton in northern California and there’s a lot of great fly fishing up there. We also lived in the Lake Tahoe area where the fly fishing was spectacular, and it was a great way to grow up.”
Kingston’s father spent 31 years in the California Highway Patrol, 17 of them near Tahoe, before retiring as a full sergeant. “When I became a trucker, they called him Big Bear and me Little Bear,” says Kingston, laughing. “I got a lot of ribbing from other truckers, especially when he gave a ticket to someone I worked with.”
Why fly fishing?
Kingston insists it’s both more fun and more challenging. “It’s something I grew up with and I’m still learning about every time I go out. I think I can probably actually fish more places and times than a traditional fisherman if I have the right equipment. I can get into lily pads and high weed banks with the right fly where regular lures won’t come back. And I like the people who fly fish; you can sit for hours and talk about it together.”
But this is not a cheap sport. It’s easy to drop $1,000 on some of the best equipment if you decide to take it up. “You can get cheaper equipment,” says Kingston, “but I really don’t think you’ll get the full breadth of it if you don’t have the right stuff. I think if someone wanted to get into it they’d maybe be best to get something cheaper just to see if they like the atmosphere, then look at moving up. They’ll get better results and enjoy it more because they can do more and see more of the potential of the sport.”
Kingston stayed at the Dakak Beach resort in the Philippines last summer and went salt-water fly-fishing nearby, mostly for tuna.
The Road to Zamboanga
In July and December of 2003 Kingston flew to the Philippines and the Dakak Beach Resort near exotically-named Zamboanga in the southern part of the country to go salt water fly fishing. “I know it’s a long way, but the fishing is fabulous, and it’s pretty cheap. I went to Cebu City, which is near, and rented a little boat and went out looking mostly for tuna. There’s great fly fishing in the Philippines, and it’s in areas that are not really developed or promoted.”
In his international jaunts Kingston also likes to fish the inland waters of Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia in Canada, and coastal waters in B.C. and Mexico’s Baja. He’s based in Los Angeles, so quick trips down to Baja will often see him on day or overnight trips looking for calico bass off Rosarito Beach or Ensenada with his fly rods. When it comes to Cabo San Lucas, he’s more likely to take a week to go out into the deep water.
Kingston pilots a 2002 Freightliner Century S/T with a Cummins power plant, hauling mostly loads for Trane, the air conditioner company, but he’ll load whatever is needed, including steel cables and fencing. And he always carries at least three fly rods with him.
There are two places Kingston is determined to get to and do some fly fishing. One is Alaska, the only state in the union he hasn’t been to. The other is what you might call a dream, and it’s one he wants to make come true this year.
“I want to go to Christmas Island and fish,” he says. “The flats out there are supposed to be some of the most amazing bonefishing in the world.” He has already enjoyed the thrill of chasing the ghostly, elusive bonefish in the flats, or shallow waters, off the Florida Keys, but Christmas Island, he says, is his Mecca.
Christmas Island is an odd place for a truck driver to dream about.
The largest atoll in the Pacific (222 square miles), it was discovered by Captain James Cook on Christmas Eve, 1777. Today it is known locally as Kiritimati (“ti” is pronounced “s”) and is part of the Republic of Kiribati, a nation of 33 islands scattered across 2,400 miles of the Pacific Ocean near the equator.
Fly fishing for bonefish is a local passion, and the island has an international reputation for it. Bonefish are easily spooked, but they are also quick and powerful, and larger numbers are seen here than anywhere else in the world. Trevally are the “big game” fly fishing targets on Christmas, incredibly aggressive fighting fish that can hit 100 pounds. With regular lures, Kingston may try for barracuda on the reefs – the local record is 85 pounds.
From Truckstop to Truck
Kingston found his way into a cab job by working at a truckstop. “In my early 20s I was working at T/A in Ontario, Calif. It would have been the middle of the 1980s. The economy wasn’t too good, it was really the only job I could get, and then I lost that. So I went to work as a carpet salesman. That was the worst job I ever had. Well, I’d been around the big rigs and truckers at the T/A, so I decided to go to trucking school. I loved it; I’ve been doing it for 17 years, and I don’t want to do anything else.”
Kingston, who is single, will usually stay out for six or seven weeks at a time, sometimes eleven or twelve weeks, happily earning long breaks so he can fly out to some exotic fishing destination. Sometimes he can drop the trailer and go bobtailing to a new fishing spot for a weekend. “I’ve been doing that since forever,” he says. “I love it. But I might do local if I could find a company that pays as well and treats me as well as Roberson. They’re one of the best companies I’ve ever been with. They get me home for the most part when I want to be, and if I see some beautiful, pristine water I’ll see if I can stop and fish, and a lot of times I can. My dispatcher, Tim Short, and I have a heck of a relationship; he gets me fishing time if he can, and I get him commission checks.”
His long trips are “totally by choice,” he says. He has no home to pay for and stays with family or friends when he takes some time to stay in one place, usually L.A.
When he does stop to fish, Kingston always buys a local license. It’s worth the cost, he says, because as soon as local authorities see a fisherman with a big rig with Illinois plates they are ready and eager to come over and check him out.
While Kingston has spent his entire life with a fly rod in hand, he says he’s still improving his skills and feels he’s ready for Christmas Island.
“I got quite good at it by the time I was 17. But I didn’t really start to fully understand and get to the next level until I started listening to my father,” he says. “You know what teenagers can be like. I was young, and I figured I had it all learned. When I was about 25, I started listening to him. My dad is a master fly fisherman and master fly-tier, and his teaching finally started to get through to me. I’m not as good as he is, but I feel I can compete with pretty much any fly fisherman I run into when I stop.”
But there’s one thing he doesn’t do: tie his own flies. He really doesn’t have the time, he says, and “anyway, I steal them from my father.”
Kingston says he’s found a connection between his life in the cab and his life with a fly rod and reel in his hand. “There’s a calm concentration in both pursuits. Get angry, upset or frustrated and neither of them will work for you.”
And he’s also found a way to combine both of his life’s passions.
“There are some evenings, after I’ve been driving all day, I’ll come into a truckstop like one in Laramie, Wyo. The Laramie River is three blocks away. I’ll park, go fishing, then come back, and I’m ready to shower and eat and go to bed and sleep really, really well.”
Roque Courvillion had taken three Franklin grouse on this Montana hunt in September when he stopped for a lunch break. He started his fire, then took this self-portrait.
Rods & Barrels
By Rocque Courvillion
My name is Rocque Courvillion (It’s pronounced Rock. Somebody in the family had a sense of humor, huh?) Two months after I was born in February of ’52, my dad graduated from the University of Montana in Missoula with a degree in forestry and big game biology. We moved to Libby, Mont., where he was a game warden, worked for the Forest Service and as a forester for a lumber company. He later started a business not directly related to the outdoors but never lost his love and respect for it. As a youngster, hunting was a big part of my life. All sorts of wild meat was part of our menu, including moose, rabbit and mountain lion. When my brother and I were old enough, hunting was second nature. After leaving home I was a logger for about 17 years. If I wasn’t working in it I was camping, hiking and hunting “in the sticks.”
When I started driving OTR about 111/2 years ago, I was pretty lost for a long time. To go from log chasing and hunting six and seven days a week to being cooped up in a cab and sleeper in L.A., Chicago, Boston or Miami, man what a change of lifestyle.
I took a liking to archery shooting and hunting in the mid ’70s. Started with a borrowed recurve, bought and used up two compounds and about seven years ago stared shooting a long bow and wood arrows (for you archery fans, 66-inch Howard Hill, #70s and 29-inch. But I pull it to 31 inches).
The need to “make meat” has decreased. We can afford to buy what we need. Our household needs have changed. But the need to be back outdoors is probably greater than ever before. I go from close contest with large numbers and a variety of people to hunting two weeks in the fall totally by myself, primarily to remember where I came from, rebuild my senses and put me back in proper balance.
When I started with CRST Flatbed 10 years ago, I raised a lot of eyebrows by carrying my archery equipment with me and practicing every chance. I’ve always got pictures and stories of my most recent trips. But the folks in the office are always interested and supportive of what I do and the time I take to do it.
So if you happen to see a red ’97 Kenworth W900L with CRST Flatbed parked in the back lot of a truckstop sometime, don’t be too surprised to see some nutcase shooting arrows at his target out behind the tuck. It relieves stress and gets me ready for the fall.
My wife has been my No. 1 passion for 31 years, but chasing elk with a bow and arrow comes a close second. We have two girls, each has one child. And my 6-year-old granddaughter also shoots a bow.
Got a picture of you with your trophy game or fish? Send a copy to John Latta at jlatta@eTrucker.com or Truckers News, 3200 Rice Mine Road, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406, and it might be featured in a future Great Outdoors section.