Make the Best of it.

In my book, The Dying Fish, I wandered through pristine and nearly pristine habitat about as far as you can get from roads and homes in the east, generally well off the beaten track. It was where I needed to go to discuss what was best for brook trout but few of us get to spend a lot of time in these sylvan backwaters.


Many of us live in apartments and many of us live in the urban world. There’s often a great economic advantage to this but there’s an obvious downside: our distance from wide open spaces. I live in an apartment in the Pittsburgh suburbs, about as disadvantaged as you can get in terms of access to the great outdoors. But here I’d like to make the case, once again, that the life of an outdoorsman is possible, even within urban confines, with the right perspective and an open mind.

Today’s post is just going to take the form of a list of ideas; mostly things I’m able to do here and things I suspect you may be able to do where you live if you’d like to get out more but can’t make weekly trips to the Adirondacks or Smokies. Have you tried any or all of these?

  • Fish the local water. There’s always local water even if it’s only in the form of ditches. Fish can be found anywhere there’s permanent water.
  • Set minnow traps in local streams, both to provide a constant bait supply and to simply study what lives in your local waters. You’ll find surprises beyond what you anticipate from the comfort of your apartment!
  • Make your stream a better place. Wood in the stream is probably the most simple way to improve any water. Tie it down to give some permanence
  • Keep a bait box in your local stream in an inconspicuous spot for always accessible minnows.
  • Go out around parking lots on rainy nights to collect your own nighcrawlers. Store these in the coolest part of your apartment or the fridge (if you don’t live alone now, you soon will!).
  • Make trails for yourself through the nearby woods for use in whatever other outdoor activities you can dream up. I have one that begins at the back porch and runs between buildings and pavement to two nearby streams.
  • Find local trails and simply take up trail running.
  • Start feeding the birds. I think almost anyone can find this fascinating whether you eve thought of yourself as a feeder of birds or not.
  • Improve your local area through trash collection. Especially if you have a pickup truck to haul it somewhere you may find this rewarding.
  • Grow your own herbs and vegetables on the back porch. Just a little bit of self-reliance to broaden your horizons beyond the produce department.
  • Get into macro photography. When you slow down and get in close with a macro lens, a whole world opens up that may have been overlooked till now.
  • Learn about the local berries and mushrooms and when to harvest. Many times, opportunities in the suburbs surpass those available in the deep woods.
  • Most importantly, explore all the local woods and waters. Don’t overlook anything.


For more thoughts in this realm, grab an issue of Backwoodsman magazine. It’s full of tons of ideas like these and I’ve got an article geared to the suburban backwoodsman scheduled to run sometime this fall. Don’t let your urban surroundings become a cage!


All of the photos here were taken in my very urban home county.


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