“Tommies on toast” was a local delicacy I was keen to experience. The Tommy Ruff is a small herring-like fish distributed along the southern coastal areas of Australia. Filleted and served on toast it makes a popular breakfast treat. As the summer sun was setting, four of us headed out onto the Port Hughes Jetty.
Port Hughes is a small coastal town in South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, a couple of hours drive from Adelaide. I was going to be camping here for the post-Christmas week. Fishing is an incredibly popular pastime here; everyone – of all sexes and ages – seemed to be in possession of a couple of rods each. The ‘roads’ of the campsite are named after local species: Tommy Ruff, Snook, King George Whiting, Garfish, Snapper and several others species I might reasonably target over the coming days. Earlier in the week, an unseasonal storm had wrecked my borrowed tent and stirred up the seas, but finally the expected blue skies returned and the fishing conditions looked better.
Jigging for squid and using baited nets for blue swimmer crabs were equally popular pastimes on the jetty, but we were after fish. Two small hooks baited with half a dozen ‘gents’ (maggots) and a swivel under an otherwise un-cocked float made up the rig. We threw handfuls of ‘burley’ (groundbait) at regular intervals to attract the Tommy Ruff and Garfish to our hooks. A stiff breeze and the un-cocked float made bite detection difficult (for me at least). My more experienced local companions were straight into the fish. They’d bagged a few Tommies, Garfish and a local mackerel species before I had my first bite.
Whether by feeling a bite, some kind of sixth sense, or a randomly chanced strike, I couldn’t tell you, but eventually I hooked into my first and only fish of the night. A few seconds of heart-in-mouth reeling and I swung the small capture onto the boards at my feet.
Darkness fell and we added glowsticks to the floats, but the fishing didn’t improve. We called it a night, with enough fish to feed the family the next morning.
- 1 Tommy Ruff