The poor old minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus) has an unenviable life. Everywhere he swims he finds something that wants to eat him. Even when fully grown he’ll make a meal for a ruffe, and pike a thousand times his size will make a tic-tac size snack out of him. There is danger from above, with kingfishers, herons, egrets and terns all partial, while beneath the water even insects are a threat. Water boatmen and dragonfly larvae are fond of minnow munching, and when flash fried in flour a shoal makes a meal for a man.
For many anglers, minnows are a bait pinching pest, good for nothing other than leaving on the hook until a perch comes along, but we miss them when they are at their finest. In spring the males colour up to attract a mate and look quite stunning – in fact, the glistening gold and red underparts would not look out of place in a tropical fishtank.