THE DONGER

The term donger as we all know is the Australian word used to describe a "priest" the angling implement that is used to administer the last rites to our quarry; hence its name.
Now like priests, dongers come in all shapes and sizes, and one Irish angler was wont to call his extra large donger his shillelagh; and indeed it was no surprise to his mates that he could and often did; tuck his donger under his arm. And like the famous song often had a twinkle in his eye.

As we all know, the well hackneyed phrase that size doesn't matter, is not necessarily true; in the case of the donger as long as it is of suitable length and stiffness and comes comfortably to hand it should prove suitable in its intended role.

We must also appreciate that there are quite a lot of female anglers on the water and political correctness demands that we do not differentiate between the sexes when promoting the use of angling accoutrements. A donger is a perfectly suitable accessory for the modern "angler".

 

If they must try one out before committing themselves; and as usual their partner is wary of surrendering his favourite "plaything", might I suggest that when said partner is totally preoccupied with his flies and heaving and hauling his rod every which way; she should grab his donger and give it a whack or two on the side of the boat. This of course will produce a great cry of anguish due, no doubt, to the unforgivable act of making undue noise in a boat, but at least the prospective donger owner will have satisfied herself of its suitability or lack of it.

In my small business I am developing a boutique type of donger, one that meets all practical and aesthetic requirements necessary in its manufacture.

These dongers will be handmade and like the nets and leather fishing gear that I also make, all items will be handmade and totally individual: none being quite the same as the others. In the light of this I am prepared to put myself out somewhat and will provide a personal fitting service; by appointment of course.

Many anglers feel that the specialised donger is a superfluous piece of equipment opting for any blunt instrument that comes to hand, I've seen fair lumps of galvanised water pipe, tractor lynch pins, heavy knives, but the worst thing that I've encountered was [from a distance I might add] an angler hunt around for a suitable rock to bludgeon the fish with. I've even had one come to me wanting to buy another net as he had "broken it using it to knock the fish on the head with".

But of course the cruellest angler is the one that unhooks the fish and casually drops it into his bag hanging from his shoulder, an act of incredible ignorance and one that I believe is the equal to us having our head held under water until we stop struggling.

As an angling writer once said "you don't need to smash the fish's skull in, just hit him hard enough to stun him so that when he wakes up he's dead".

I believe that it is imperative that we show respect to our quarry, one that I presume we've all enjoyed stalking and catching. If he's to be kept then immediate dispatch should be the rule, but if catch and release is to be employed instant release of a fit and alert fish must be exercised.

Many times I've spent ages supporting a fish until it could glide off under his own steam, this was before I got net educated and realised that with a net the fish could usually be controlled and brought to hand much quicker than playing it out to exhaustion. Even now especially when fishing from a boat (but also from land), when the fish's head is brought just out of the water he can often be drawn straight to the net in one fell swoop before he's even taken you for a run. A swift lift into the boat and it's all over or conversely a quick stoop and grab of the barbless hook, a twist and the fish is free without being touched.

This is not to be confused with the action of 'skull dragging" the fish in facilitated by the use of a heavy leader, but can be deployed often after the initial charge for freedom has been expended, an act that lends itself to the competition anglers needs of speed and efficiency very well
Enough digressing; let's return to donger manipulation. I reckon that the donger should be held in a convenient place until it's needed and then it can be brought into play without too much hunting around for. I find that a trouser back pocket is very handy, with a belt mounted knife-like sheath being the best option. However it matters not where it's kept if you drop it when over water; it's usually gone for good. Maybe a quick strip and dive might find it, but if you try explaining to a quizzical non-fisherman that your donger has disappeared; it might elicit the comment along the lines of "well what do you expect in this cold climate".

So all in all I reckon that a donger is an indispensable item of equipment, and providing that it's not too heavy nor bulky to carry around the anglers lot will be the better for having one.

Bob Cooper
Trout Tasmania.

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