The nase (also known as the hotu, musard or sneep) is not found in Britain, but is widespread across Europe. It is a slender, silvery fish with reddish fins, rather like a dace. Its main characteristic features are its snout and mouth. The snout is rounded and protrudes; beneath it is the small, almost rectangular mouth. The lips are sharp-edged and horny, very similar to those of the grey mullet. The dorsal fin has 12 rays, the anal fin 10-12 rays and there are 57-62 scales along the lateral line.
Athough there are six other variants or sub-species, they share much the same features. Hybrids are common between the nase and these variants, and they are also recorded between the nase and the chub.
The nase in its various forms can be found in Spain and Portugal in the west, through
France, Germany, northern Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Russia, to the Caspian Sea in the east. It lives in medium to fast flowing waters in the middle reaches of rivers (an area sometimes known as the barbel region).
Usually found over rocky or gravelly bottoms, the nase has a particular liking for the well oxygenated water below weirs or mills. Other preferred areas are around bridge supports, large boulders or at the point where tributaries join the main flow of the river.
Breeding and growth
Between February and April, when the water temperature reaches 11°C (52°F), nase form into large shoals and move upstream. Here they spawn in shallow gravelly runs or in narrow rocky tributaries.
The eggs are sticky and adhere to the stones of the spawning beds. After hatching the fry stay in the shallows for at least a year. Nase reach maturity after four years or so, when they have reached a length of about 30cm (12in) and a weight of 1lb (0.45kg). Some specimens can reach weights of nearly 6 lb (2.7kg).
The nase feeds mainly on algae and microscopic weed and insect life which grow on the rocky, stony bottoms of the rivers it lives in. Its chisel-like lower jaw is well suited for scraping up such food.
This diet of tiny particles, which cannot be imitated on the hook, is very frustrating for the angler, who sees the margins of the river lined with dozens of these beautiful feeding fish, yet is incapable of getting a bite from them. However, anglers in France regularly use silkweed as hookbait – with some degree of success.
Fortunately for anglers, the larger nase have rather wider appetites. They eat small worms and a variety of insect larvae, so they can be tempted by maggots and similar baits. A big nase fights well in the fast flowing water it inhabits, making several powerful runs before it comes to the net. Catching a large nase can make a trip to Europe well worthwhile.