Cold water angler Nicky Anastas gets the river to himself.
Winter in Breckenridge. Thick pillows of snow hang from brown lodgepole pines on either side of the Blue River. The nearby ski resort is bustling with skiers making fresh tracks. Twenty minutes away 26-year-old Nicky Anastas eyes the recent snowfall and knows he has a chance to have the river to himself.
Anastas, who grew up in Aspen, learned to fly fish from his dad when he was nine. By age 20 fishing, film and music became his obsessions.
Today he spends most of the year in LA working for a video production company specializing in the car industry working on ads. However, starting around the Christmas season, he escapes the smog and warm days of LA and returns to Aspen to visit family and work for the ski patrol.
At the shores of the river in the early morning he’s dressed in wading boots, extra socks, gloves and bundles of clothes. His fishing bag is placed down in the snow next to him. On the top is a small dry towel, which he uses to dry his hands before sliding his hands into his gloves. This is one of many tricks he’s learned after years of winter fishing to keep warm. Barehanded, he ties a midge to his line, and takes his first casts of the day.
Snow on the landscape muffles the sound of the river as it flows down the canyon. He watches the river move, and keeps his mind on the prize – whitefish and brown trout. He targets them, knowing he has to cast his fly to within six inches of the fish for them to snag it. Fish need to conserve energy, and won’t strike for the fly unless it knows it will get more food than energy expended to get it, he says. He lays the line down faintly with the timing reminiscent of playing a stringed instrument.
To be alone with his thoughts puts him in a trance and leads him to a state-like Buddhist meditation.
“You get less fish pressure on the really cold days like in Breck since all the skiers go skiing. If you can endure the cold and put your hands in the freezing water,” he laughs every now then, and adds, “there is certain quietness with the snow on the trees. You get these spring bluebird days juxtaposed with this beautiful white.”
“For a while it took over my life in a good way,” he says and releases a big child–like laugh. He explains that, “Colorado is filled with geologically amazing places but sometimes you have to share the water instead of having this wide of steam of river that is open in the winter months.”
Being alone or sharing the time with a friend, Anastas casts to fish that haven’t heard people’s footsteps for months and, safely, spread out along the river ready to bite.