Trout Talk

With any new pursuit, it's all about the first step

I had a birthday recently, and received a very thoughtful gift from my girlfriend. After mentioning some time back that I was interested in trying my hand at distilling my own essential oils, I was thrilled to open up a box that contained a basic, do-it-yourself still. 

And, no, I’m not going to start off making and selling illicit moonshine — it’s illegal to distill alcohol, even for personal use (but it is legal in most states to brew your own beer or wine). I’ll stay within the bounds of the law and work to distill essential oils.

But the problem is, I’ve never done it before. It looks complex. The still looks complex, too, with lots of little parts and tubes and coils. I’ve spent a few hours online since opening my birthday gift, trying to understand what each part does, how it interacts with the other parts and how to arrive at a final product. The process seems manageable, but time consuming and with little margin for error. But I’m also… intimidated. What if I screw it up? What if something goes wrong? What if I don’t like the process or the final product? What if it’s not as much fun as I thought it would be?

For anyone considering taking up fly fishing, does this sound familiar?

From tippet size to rod and line weights to hook size, fly fishing can be an intimidating craft to begin. It’s been a while since I was a neophyte fly angler, and much of what I know about the craft now has been either self-taught, or picked up in bits and pieces from better anglers over the years. It took time. It took patience. Most of all, though, it took that first step — that helpless moment where I wandered blindly into a fly shop and put myself at the mercy of someone who could help me get started on my fly fishing journey. It didn’t stop there, either. I needed help and encouragement to take the next steps — over time — in my pursuit of the sport.

What if I screw it up? What if something goes wrong? What if I don’t like the process or the final product? What if it’s not as much fun as I thought it would be?

Since opening the still and piecing all the parts together, I am drawing on those first fateful days as a committed fly fisher. I’m ordering books. I’m learning about the process. I’m learning about the tools and the peripherals I need to gather about me in order to give me the best chance for success. New fly fishers should consider the same approach (but absolutely, do visit a fly shop and throw yourself at the mercy of the proprietor — sadly, there’s no DIY distilling shop in my community, or I’d have already paid it a visit). 

I suspect, though, that learning to distill will be a lot like learning to fly fish. It’ll very likely be an interesting adventure that, as it turns out, isn’t as hard to get into as I might have initially believed. But I also know it’ll take time and commitment and likely help from others. 

If you’re standing on the precipice of your fly fishing adventure, remember that it all starts with that first leap of faith. And it continues, despite discouragement and failure — without failing at first, success is hollow, right? 

I’m taking the leap with my newfound pursuit. You should, too. 

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By Chris Hunt.