Archive by Author | genoandchase

Searching for Summer Brook Trout: Fishing the Cains River Crown Reserve

Finally, in mid-July the time had arrived. After purchasing 4-wheelers in the spring, Grant and I had been patiently waiting for a free weekend in which to hit the New Brunswick trails. This was going to be Grant’s first ATV trip, so I wanted to show him a good mix of trails and logging roads en route to our campsite. Our destination was a site on the Cains River, known locally as the Italian Bridge.

We discovered the site a few years ago on a canoe trip down the Cains. At that time it was unoccupied so we decided to squat for the night – it was too perfect to pass up. As it turned out, the site was for fishermen that had booked Upper Cains Crown Reserve fishing stretch. We resolved to return someday and fish.

During discussions leading up to our 4-wheeling trip we debated going up, camping if the site was available, and going elsewhere if it wasn’t. However, we decided that we didn’t want to spend time and gas roaming around looking for an alternative should the need arise.

Crown Reserve fishing is run on a lottery based-system. Each year anglers place their names in a draw for exclusive access to some of the province’s most sought after fishing spots. In the low season — when the fishing is poor — some weekends go undrawn. When this occurs anyone can book the stretch on a first come, first serve basis. As it turned out, we were in luck: our chosen stretch was unbooked, and just like that our 4-wheeling trip became a fishing trip.

Our plan was to meet in Chipman on Friday and strike out from my parent’s house. We arrived at the house around 4:00pm, secured our gear onto our quad racks, and hit the trail. In total, our route was around 60 km. We hoped to arrive at the Cains River in time to set up camp and partake in an evening fish.

XR500

Arctic Cat XR500 all loaded for the Fishing Trip

We travelled down an old trail that connected North Forks to Gaspereau. Conditions were dry. On the Howard Lemon logging road the dust forced us to either drive side by side or 400 meters apart. We crossed the Gaspereau River at the Grand Lake SnoCruiser’s Snowmobile Shack. The trail system beyond the Gaspereau connected us to Mountain Brook Road and eventually Blue Rock. From Blue Rock we headed straight to the Italian Bridge –arriving at our site around 7:30pm.

The Upper Cains Crown Reserve is a live release only stretch that encompasses over 10km of the river. Several tributaries drain into the river in this area — Gordon, Otter and Wildcat Brooks to name a few. In total there are 14 named pools and an untold number of fishable rips, not bad for $23/rod.

With the temperature in the high 20’s, it was a warm evening. The water, however, was cool and deep, much deeper than the Gasperau. We scouted the four pools closest to our campsite — Salmon, Acadia Bridge, Pine, and an unnamed pool — and decided to fish only one for the night.

After setting up camp we tied on our go-to flies and hit the water. Things were quiet at first, but after settling in the pool suddenly came to life. Fish began rising all around us. In a short period of time we probably landed a half dozen fish — a mix of good sized trout and chub. Unfortunately, just as quickly as it came on, the pool went silent. Conditions were serene as the sun was setting so the lack of action didn’t matter. We were content to enjoy the tranquil sounds of the river and watch arced fly-lines travel through the air against a spruce backdrop illuminated by the setting sun.

Cains

Calm evening pool.

Back at the campsite, the mosquitos were relentless. Our smoky campfire offered some reprieve, but regardless the onslaught lasted until dark. After a busy day, we attacked our steaks and wine with the same vigor as the bugs did us.

With heavy heads, we arose the next morning at the crack of 9:30am – well past peak fishing time! Dark grey clouds approached and thunder rolled in the distance, and, of course, our rain gear was packed deep into packs on the quads. The storm ended up being uneventful, it lasted just long enough to soak through my cheap rain suit. With low expectations, we made it to the river by 11:00am.

Grant had good luck the previous evening so he offered up his hot spot to me for the morning session. He had been fishing with a nameless orange dry-fly, and had enticed a few nice trout to the surface. I opted to stick with the Olive Crystal Flash Wolly Bugger from the previous evening, mainly for convenience sake. I was not having much luck, so I switched up my approach and began casting up river. This method allowed my fly to drift more freely through the center of the pool and resulted in a hook-up. A good fight ensued and I landed the first fish of the morning, a foot-long chub. Not really what we were looking for but good fun none the less.

I released the chub and began to cast away upstream again. After no more fish, I was ready to relinquish the spot to Grant when suddenly I felt a small bump. I pulled the rod skyward hooking nothing but water. I rolled the line a short distance upstream again only to feel the same bump. This time my timing was on. SCREEEECH!!! My Orvis Battenkill II reel screamed as I was into a very nice fish.

The fish swam straight to the bottom and made a run for it. In our limited experience we surmised this was the way a Salmon typically takes a fly, and, with the way my trout rod was bending I had little doubt. Grant ran back to the campsite to retrieve the camera. I did my very best to keep this fish hooked. I followed him down along the bank through the pool keeping the rod tip skyward. I was only a few minutes into this battle but I could feel my forearm pulsing to maintain the resistance. This fish was still pulling line. I had to palm my reel to slow his progress.

Grant returned out of breath but full of excitement — he wanted to land this fish as badly as I did. We coordinated an effort to land the fish on a small gravel bar along the bank. Our first attempt showed us that the fish was not a salmon, but rather a very large trout. However, the fish – like most people — spooked at the sight of Grant and peeled more line off my reel. For us, the third time was a charm, and we successfully landed the largest brook trout I will probably ever catch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cains River Brook Trout

The trout measured in at 22inches in length. It had a girth similar to that of a football. I estimated that it would tip the scales at a minimum of 3.5lbs — but it was likely closer to a 4lb fish. After some photos I worked the fish back into the water to be caught another day. Grant caught a couple more trout, but I didn’t land another.

thumb_P7151386_1024

Grant displays another fine trout caught on the fly.

Eventually we packed up our gear and headed home. That night I would attend my 10-year High School reunion and ironically, the only story I told was from earlier that day!

Advertisements

Salmon Success in Newfoundland

A Thursday morning in the office quickly turned into an evening on the river when a coworker came to me brandishing a calendar and a camera. He showed me today’s date on the calendar with a black cartoon fish beside it and a photo of himself with three salmon on his fingers. “Last time the calendar showed this, I got these.” was all he said.

I have never put a lot of stock in suggested “best days” for outings based on the moon phase but his photographic evidence had me home packing waders and a rod into the bed of his truck. The plan was to drive up to  Cormack, NL and hike 45 minutes up the Humber River to Cabin Pool.

Upon arriving at the pool it was clear to us that the water was high and the pool had expanded in size. We knew this because there were fish breaching — everywhere! We made a plan to go above the pool and work our way down both sides of the run.

After a couple hours of fish jumping all around us my coworker suggested I move toward him somewhat as he could see a fish between us that was rising towards my fly. I took a couple steps toward him and cast my line in such a manner that it would drift over the area he indicated. The fish took my Blue Charm with a Squirrel tail much the same way a trout would. She tugged on it a couple times before I rose my rod to set the hook. She stayed on the bottom and didn’t budge. Only when I made my way toward shore did she begin to run. My reel screamed as I persuaded her towards a shoal where my coworker was waiting with a net.

At 60cm and 5.5lbs she was definitely worth one of my tags. We hooked and lost another fish each that evening before trekking back to the truck. You can bet that the next time my calendar has a black cartoon fish on it I will be headed to the river!

DCIM100GOPRO

Cabin Pool, Upper Humber River, NL

Goodbye Royalex, Hello Nova Craft Prospector

Old Town Canoes made headlines in 1978 when they tossed a Tripper canoe from the roof of their warehouse and it landed unscathed. The boat was constructed of a new material known as Royalex — bonded layers of vinyl, ABS plastic, and a foam core. Royalex caught on immediately and companies all over North America adopted it for their own tripping and whitewater canoes.

But it was all over in April 2014 when PolyOne — Royalex’s manufacturer — announced they were ceasing production. Boat builders were left in the lurch as they scrambled to find a suitable replacement. Developing another material compatible with existing canoe moulds proved difficult. A brief glimmer of hope came along when Esquif Canoes announced that they’d developed a replacement material — T-Formex — for release in 2015.  But Esquif lacked the financial backing, and they shut down.

Consumers raced to snatch up the last of the Royalex canoes. Not wanting to miss the boat — literally and figuratively — I caught Royalex fever. I had to act fast if I wanted to get my hands on a canoe like my father’s Old Town Tripper. I called several distributors in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and their answers were all the same: they were out of stock and waiting on orders that would never be filled.

Looking online at Nova Craft Canoe’s distributor list, I saw there was a dealer a mere 4 km from my door here in Corner Brook. One quick email to a buddy who just began working at the store and I had confirmation that there was one canoe in stock. Tense hours passed while I waited to hear what model, length, colour and, most importantly, material the canoe was made of before I had my answer late Friday evening.

Saturday morning I loaded this 16-foot Nova Craft Prospector onto my truck, knowing I had just purchased the last new Royalex Prospector in Newfoundland, possibly in eastern Canada!

20150418_112807

Nova Craft Prospector 16

With proper maintenance this canoe could last me a lifetime, but for added insurance I applied Kevlar skid plates. I laid out a template for the skids with plastic and masking tape and roughed up the vinyl left exposed. I applied a generous coating of epoxy on both skids afterward.

20150503_172041

Skid Plate Template

20150510_133530

Skid Plate Installation

20150510_141206

Finished Product

Now I just have to wait for the ice to finally melt in the ponds and rivers here in western Newfoundland to take her on her maiden voyage!

Editors Note: At time of publication Esquif has announced they will reopen and continue developing the T-Formex product. Only time will tell if it will compare to Royalex.

Frosty Spring Paddle: Early Season Brook Trout on the Gaspereau River

As the winter draws to an end and the days begin to warm, I start to see signs that the rivers will soon begin to flow. As an avid canoeist and fisherman, spring break-up brings all the memories of seasons past and the anticipation of memories to be made.

I recall an early season trip back in April 2012, Grant and I were anxious to get the first trip of the year under our belts and to try our luck with the early-run trout. We convened on a Friday evening at the camp with the goal of doing a little stream-hopping — trying a few casts in a couple different nearby tributaries of the Gaspereau River — and getting up early Saturday for an upper Gaspereau River paddling adventure.

McKean Brook was our first destination. To get there we headed north on Route 123 towards Doaktown, and pulled onto a logging road known locally as G-11. The brook meanders east, draining Ackerman Heath, and is known to hold trout in the early season. It crosses G-11 at an 8 foot galvanized-steel pipe — where we parked the truck and baited some hooks. We worked a few hundred meters of stream on both sides of the pipe, but with high water levels and a subconscious knowledge that it was probably TOO early for trout, we decided to pack up and try another stream.

We headed further north, crossing the Gaspereau River Bridge — our take out the next day – turning onto Mountain Brook Road to try our luck on a brook of the same name. Mountain Brook flows northeast into the Cains River. We stopped at a bottomless arch culvert and worked a few casts into the black water. Again, no luck.

Determined to catch something, the right decision seemed to be to head back to camp in hopes that some of last season’s trout were trapped in the beaver pond behind the camp. After a few casts we started to think that leaving the fishing rods behind tomorrow wouldn’t be a terrible idea, when I felt a light nudge at my single blade spinner. A quick retrieve and an aggressive cast back to the same location yielded an instant strike. The fish squirmed and ran parallel to the dam before breaking the surface in a series of splashes while I reeled her towards shore. It was a beautifully colored brook trout that had darkened from overwintering in the beaver pond. It retained pink coloration in its meat — which paired nicely with our strip loin steaks later that evening. A few cold pops enjoyed over several games of cribbage next to the fireplace saw us into our respective beds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Camo keeps me hidden from trout too!

Trout

Perfect for the frying pan

Grant and I arose to a chilly cabin and a silvery landscape. A heavy frost had worked its way into the river valley overnight. Over breakfast we both agreed that this is what spring paddling is all about. After shuttling a truck to the bridge we headed to our put in. From here it was a short portage to the river’s edge where, as the sun began to peer over the tree tops, we slid the Old Town Tripper into the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m sure Robert Frost could have captioned this…

We had roughly 15km ahead of us to the bridge, an easy day paddle with plenty of time for fishing at the best holes. The water was swift and made paddling more of a steering affair – I’m not sure Grant touched a paddle all day. Steering is important on this stretch of the Gaspereau River, it is narrow and turns back to meet itself every kilometer or so.  Out of the sunlight the air was cool and most of the trip was through the shadows of the mature spruce and pine. We managed to keep warm by doing the odd 8oz curl and casting our lines.

As lunch time rolled around we spotted a nice bank with a few downed snags and pulled ashore. We worked swiftly to get a little fire going to take the chill off. Thankfully we had brought hotdogs and granola bars along with us as the fish were hiding quite well up here too.

Fire

A little warm up required

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lazy lunch

After our shore lunch we continued on down river enjoying the scenery and the day as it was presented to us. Small talk and sightseeing was all that was needed for entertainment.  We landed an 8 inch winter trout each before happening upon a majestic pine that the ice had scoured under for years, giving it appearance of being suspended in the fresh spring air. Effortless paddle strokes brought us around the bends until finally, the bridge was in sight.

Bring on the effortless bends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hovering White Pine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Successful day!

New Toys

I recently recieved a couple new toys, a Ruger 10/22 and a GoPro. I couldn’t think of a better way to debut both!

Newfoundland Moose Season Has Arrived

With moose season in Newfoundland heating up let’s enjoy a bit of footage from the 2013 season. As you can see, I had about 20 pointed reasons to hunt where I did. For those interested, take a look at a series of articles I produced on my 2013 moose hunt — hopefully you learn from my mistakes!

Part 1 – The Hopeful Moose Hole
Part 2 – Target Acquired
Part 3 – Base Camp Construction
Part 4 – Unsuccessful Conclusion

Stay tuned for my series about my 2014 moose hunt. Here’s to a successful season!

Miramichi River Fly Fishing Trip

As Grant mentioned I was back in New Brunswick last week for a few festivities leading up to the end of the world as I know it — my wedding this winter. Prior to our St. Croix River run, I had scheduled a fly fishing trip with my father. Dad had won the trip in a draw at the New Brunswick Big Game Antler Show which was held in Chipman — our home town — this past spring.

So, on Wednesday evening we found ourselves heading north on Route 123 towards Doaktown and the storied Miramichi River. We landed at the Betts-Kelly Lodge with instructions to unload ourselves into the Lower Cabin. We soon realized that we were alone on the Lodge grounds and decided to settle into some deck chairs. As we sat and admired the beauty of the mighty Miramichi River, we witnessed a doe and her fawn brave the currents and cross the river just above us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Betts-Kelly Lodge

Just as a bald eagle swooped into its nest at the top of a large white pine directly across from us — possibly showing us where to fish in the morning? — we heard a vehicle approaching. Our host Keith made his way onto the deck as my father and I introduced ourselves. We could see that he was somewhat puzzled and then he said “I’m dumbfounded as to why you are here.” My father chuckled and explained they had spoke earlier last week to confirm the date, to which he responded, “Today is Wednesday!?” He explained he was gearing up for the upcoming bear season and had lost all track of time. We assured him everything was in order at the camp, and that we were very low maintenance so he had nothing to worry about. After a few games of cribbage and a couple of New Brunswick’s finest cold ones, we retired to our beds with our alarms set for morning.

We awoke before the sun — at 6:00 a.m. — and began preparing our fishing gear. Having traveled from Newfoundland, I opted not to bring my rod on the plane. Dad assured me that I had an old rod at home I had forgotten about. As I pulled it from the case I immediately noticed  that the rod was on the light side for salmon. Sure enough it was a 5 weight. I also noticed that whoever had tied the leader and fly on last was a complete idiot — wait, who’s rod was this again? The floating line had been tied into a double overhand loop with the leader cow hitched onto it. Suffice to say it required some improvement.

I sent dad on his way to the river and settled in at the lodge table to tie on a new leader and fly. I had read that a nail knot is great for joining leader to floating line but I had no idea how to tie one. Thankfully, I was able to access animatedknots.com to walk me through each step. After a couple tries I had leader joined to line like a professional, with limited experience. I used the improved clinch knot — that I learned on the Serpentine — to attach an Orange Bomber, and I was on my way to the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A beautiful sunrise on the mighty Miramichi River

The plan was to enjoy a few hours of fishing in our private pool and then return to the lodge for breakfast. The pool we were working was in the main part of the river. There was a ledge protruding from the left side of the river that created a nice eddy behind it. We were casting into the current and allowing the fly to drift into the edge of the eddy where we thought fish would hold up.

Our guide confirmed that the rumours we had heard were true — it had been a bad year for fishing. As few as 12,000 salmon had returned to the river this year, down from 112,000 in 1990. After several hundred casts, we were starting to believe those numbers. Ever the optimists, my dad and I opted to switch over to smaller flies in hopes of enticing a trout. I fumbled through my fly box and came up with a fly that I had no idea what it was is called. A true amateur fly fisherman had told me to simply add the word ‘machine’ after stating the colour of the fly — making my selection a “Brown Feather Machine”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Givin’R on the river

Within minutes of making the switch my father’s line went tight. Both of our hearts skipped a beat, we were into our first fish of the day! The trout darted out into the current and, as fast as he arrived, he left after spitting the small hook. Nevertheless this encounter renewed our hopes of taking a fish home and gave us the stamina to push the thoughts of bacon and eggs out of our heads for a few more casts.

DSCF0431

Have you checked your leader for knots lately, Dad?

On a break between casts, as I stood and enjoyed the view of the sun rising over the trees, I noticed a black object in the river exactly where we had seen the deer cross the evening before. I motioned to Dad and we watched as medium-sized black bear made its way across the river — no doubt on his way up to eat our breakfast. As he lumbered up the bank we agreed that it was time to head back to camp. Sometimes a trip full of beautiful scenery and some interesting wildlife encounters is all you need. As we were walking up the trail, I jokingly said to dad “it’s was a good thing we brought bacon.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5 weight, no big deal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is that a bear? No it’s just my shadow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How’s your shoulder, Dad?

DSCF0451

The Chase men in their Tilly Hats.

Fly Fishing for Atlantic Salmon on the Serpentine River: Just Out for a Flick

I can count the number of times I have been fly fishing in my life on one hand and if you were to cut off both of my hands it would not hinder me from showing you how many fish I have caught on the fly. So when an amateur like me is approached by a co-worker with an opportunity to go fishing on one of western Newfoundland’s most prolific salmon rivers, I only asked when we were leaving and how many days of vacation to take.

We were heading to the Serpentine River, which is nestled between two of Newfoundland’s highest ranges, Lewis Hills and Blow-Me-Down Mountains. The river flows out of Serpentine Lake to the north-west through a series of deep holes, rapids, and falls before finally reaching the Atlantic Ocean. Most access the river via a 55km logging trail — that is long overdue for some routine maintenance. The trail arrives at the south end of the lake, after which a 10-minute boat ride will bring you to the river source.

We loaded all of our gear into our transportation for the next two days — an Old Town “LabradorPredator equipped with a 4HP Yamaha outboard — and set out across the lake. After navigating through the shallow opening, and around a couple sweeping turns we arrived at base camp. We set up our tent, enjoyed a couple footlong subs, and set about rigging up our rods so we could get in a few casts before sundown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ‘Labrador’ Predator

As we idled down the river we gazed into the pools to see if we could see any fish. There were plenty of good-sized trout – the kind I dreamed about back in New Brunswick — but didn’t see anything resembling a salmon. We opted to pass through one of the larger pools — called Dark Hole — to try our luck on Governor’s Rock, around the next bend. Governor’s Rock is a deep pool on an outside bend of the river; it features a large rock in the middle. The pool is too deep to stand in, and it is lined with mature trees making fishing from a boat the only viable way to fish it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Check out the scenery on the Serpentine

We positioned ourselves above the rock and set anchor. My coworker Cory fished from the stern while I from the bow. The wind was moving the boat back and forth, giving us both ample opportunities to land a few casts in the slow moving water behind the rock. As I stated earlier I have not fly fished many times in my life, hence I was having a hard time casting from the boat with another person less than 8 feet from me. This difficulty became apparent to Cory, when I whipped him in the face on a back cast! As luck would have it — as I was apologizing to him while surveying for damage — the reel screamed…. ZINNNGGG! Fish on!

I pulled the rod tip skyward in an effort to set the hook and I was amazed to see a magnificent salmon breech the water and soar through the air landing back in the water behind the boat with a large splash. I kept the rod high in the air and began reeling. I was constantly asking Cory for guidance, as I had no idea how fast I should retrieve my line. There are numerous obstacles when fishing from a boat, all of which found their way into my path of retrieval. I had a close encounter with the anchor rope at one end and the motor at the other. The fish made a dive under the boat and the reel began screaming again. I battled him as he emerged down river from us as Cory picked up the net. He had me bring the fish to the starboard side and begin reeling hard. You could see the fish was tiring as he was beginning to roll on his side. It was merely a net scoop away from being my first Atlantic Salmon. Cory didn’t fail me.

After a 5 minute clash, there between my knees in the boat was a 4.2lb, 61cm grilse. I grabbed it by the gills and tail and held it proudly for the camera. What an exciting feeling to be holding that fish! I promptly tagged it and told Cory to shut off the camera and get his line back in the water!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My 4.2lb baby boy! Catch of a lifetime!

That evening Cory and I relived the catch of the day as we shared a cold beer and watched as our fire flickered on the dark banks of the Serpentine. The night sky sparkled with thousands of stars and the promise of great day again tomorrow. We settled into our respective sleeping bags with dreams of Salmo salar dancing across the water in our heads.

Serpentine 2014 024

Base camp

The next morning as the sun poked over the hills, a granola bar made its way into my gut as I slipped into my waders. It was 5:20 and we couldn’t wait to hit the water. We slid offshore and gracefully paddled down around the bend. The plan for the morning was to fish the Black Hole we had passed over twice the day before and then make our way down river until hunger pains brought us back to camp for some bacon and eggs.

We beached the boat above Black Hole and prepared our rods. We had some luck on None of your Business, a green bodied fly wrapped with a silver line and sporting a sparkling tailso we both tied one on for this morning. I was accustomed to using the fisherman’s knot to tie on my lures, however Cory showed me how to use an additional half hitch that not only makes your knot stronger, but also assists in presenting the fly in a different manner.

Serpentine 2014 021

I’d like to thank my Tilly Hat protecting my face and ears

We both started making our way down through the pool casting as we went. As I neared a small eddy on the far side of the river I positioned myself for a 40-foot cast into the small ripple running past. I tried to land my cast on the eddy side of the ripple so my fly would be pulled down through where I figured the salmon would hang up. I worked the line up off the river back behind me pausing ever so slightly before whipping forward and lowering the rod tip parallel to the water. I watched as my floating line uncoiled slowly followed by my leader and dropping my fly lightly into the pool. My fly glistened as it drifted slowly in the current. I was just thinking about pulling my rod tip skyward for another cast when ZINNGGGG…. I was into my second salmon in two days!

I jerked the rod as high as I could and the reel screamed in discontent. The fish bounded skyward and hopped across the water on its side. I began reeling and making my way towards shore. Cory grabbed the net from the boat and began making his way towards me. We were both hopeful that this would be the second fish of our trip. I maintained pressure on the line and watched as the fish darted down river. Cory ducked under my rod with camera rolling as the fish made a turn into the current. I continued to reel as the salmon muscled its way up river against the current and against the drag of my reel. Both Cory and I looked on as my line came back at me like a spring and coiled up around my feet. The morning calmness of the Serpentine valley was interrupted with a few four letter words and a faint childish giggle from a man now hooked on fly fishing!

We rounded out our trip that afternoon with two beautiful sea trout, which tipped the scales at 2.4 and 1.8 pounds. The evening brought us some company on the river, and already content with our trip we allowed our friends to go fishing without us. We stayed by the fire and eagerly discussed our next trip to the Serpentine River.

Tight lines!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What a trip!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I dreamt about trout like these in New Brunswick

Scope Installation and Zeroing

I recently purchased a new Marlin XT-22 with the intent of building a training rifle for off-season shooting practice. This economic bolt-action repeater came with iron sights and with the option to mount a scope. Since most of my hunting rifles are outfitted with a scope I opted to purchase one for this training rifle. In keeping with the economy theme I settled on the Simmons 22 Mag 3-9x32mm AO offering.

As I was unboxing my new purchases I thought it might be beneficial for some if I wrote a technical review on how to install a scope, and ultimately zero — sight-in — a rifle. Hence, below is a pictorial account of the decisions made and steps involved when installing a new scope on any rifle platform.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before we get down to the nitty gritty details I think we should start with a few part definitions:

Receiver: The part of a rifle that contains the operating mechanism or action

Dovetail: A  joining method using opposing angles to hold two items together

Bases: Hardware mounted on rifle top to allow the mounting of a scope

Scope Rings: Generally a two piece circular ring that bolts around scope and onto bases, which come in various heights

Scope: A telescopic, tubular optic containing a reticle or dot for sighting a target

Windage and Elevation knob: Adjustment knobs on scope body to change point of aim with reference to point of bullet impact. Windage refers to horizontal adjustment while Elevation refers to the vertical.

In/lbs: Measurement units for tourque commonly used in reference to tightening of bolts

Scope Installation

The first decision in mounting a scope is which method of install you will use. Some firearms have the option of mounting a scope on dovetail groves in the top of rifle receiver; however, the most common method is mounting on mounting bases. The photo below shows the top of the receiver with groves for dovetail rings and 4 screw holes for mounting bases.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I chose the more traditional option – using mounting bases – for two reasons, 1) although dovetail rings are sufficient for a low recoil rifle, bases are known to be a more solid option, and 2) there are many more scope ring choices for base applications than dovetail.

Because all firearm actions are different there a hundreds of base configurations. My particular firearm required a two-piece base – Weaver #12 style. If you are considering ordering from a catalog or online be sure to order both!

To install bases the factory screws must be removed from the receiver.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The bases are simply mounted into place securely. These screws should be torqued to between 15-25 in/lb depending on rifle model. Tightening all screws to manufacturer’s specifications will save you a lot of time and ammo at the range – it effectively prevents you from trying to zero your rifle with a loose scope.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next comes the installation of the bottom half of scope rings. The ring clamps underneath the base with a long screw – which sits in groove of the base — and tightens (20-25 in/lb). The screw in the base groove keeps the scope ring from moving back and forth; hence tightening the screw onto the base holds the scope down and keeps it from moving side to side. This is one of the advantages of the base method over the dovetail. Dovetail mounting relies on sheer downward pressure to keep rings from sliding during recoil, whereas bases have a built in stopping grove.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next is probably the most important step in mounting a scope – the actual mounting of the scope (please hold your applause). Place the top half of the ring over the scope and set it in lower half. Snug up the screws so that the scope is held firmly but can still be adjusted.

You will need to determine the amount of eye relief required. Eye Relief is the distance from which the scope can be from your eye while your cheek rests comfortably in natural shooting position and which you can still see clearly through the scope. This can be set upby shouldering the rifle and placing your cheek on the stock – the way you would when shooting. If the power of the scope can be adjusted ensure that the lowest power is selected – to give you the largest field of view. If the scope is too far away from your eye a black shadow will appear inside the ocular lens, this is called parallax – and even I’m not qualified to explain that. Next, slide the scope in the rings closer or further away from your eye so that you have a full field of view. At this point you should turn the power ring to the full power of zoom to ensure that the same field of view remains present.

Before tightening the scope in place you will want to level it so that the reticle – crosshair — appears level in each 90 degree plain. Levelling a scope can be as simple as levelling the rifle and using a common level on a flat surface – elevation knob – or placing a level line on a wall and levelling the reticle to that.

At this point you should tighten the scope in the rings  – 15-20 in/lb.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Normally you would be done, but in my case I had a minor issue – the bolt would touch the scope when cycling the action. My scope rings were simply not high enough, however, the minuscule height difference required did not merit purchasing higher rings. So, I used an old gunsmithing trick to give me the minor height change required. I removed the rings with scope intact and removed the bases. I then cut small strips out of an aluminum pop can and placed them under the bases creating a shim. After reinstalling everything, the bolt cleared the scope.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Zeroing a Scope

Once at the range I was able to set the gun up in sand bags, which prevent the gun from moving around in the initial stages of zeroing — and can double as a shooting rest later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I set up a target at 25 yards and began to bore sight the gun. Bore sighting is a technique in which the bore or barrel of the rifle is aimed at a target and then the scope is adjusted to the same point of aim. This can be achieved by the use of a laser in the bore or by the method explained herein. To bore sight my gun I removed the bolt from the gun and looked directly down through the barrel. I then moved the gun so I could see the paper through the bore. Finally, I made sure the crosshairs in the scope were also on the paper. In theory this process ensures that you will at least hit the paper on your first shots as you begin zeroing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prior to firing the first rounds I made some adjustments that many ignore when sighting in a rifle — adjusting the scope to your own eye. I focused the ocular lens so the picture was clear and I adjusted the objective lens to focus on the target at the current range.

I settled in behind the gun and began shooting. The first round struck the middle of the paper so my bore sighting had been effective. I finished my 3 shot grouping, and I was surprised when I didn’t see any additional holes in the target. Concerned, I loaded up 2 additional rounds to prove the first wasn’t a fluke. Upon looking at the target I soon realized that all 3 of my first shots had passed through the same hole! Not bad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can see the first grouping was low and right, 2 inches and 1 inch respectively. I spun the caps off the elevation and windage knobs and read the adjustment indicator. One click was equal to ¼ MOA – or Minute of Angle. MOA is another complex shooting term that simply translates to 1” at 100 yards. Therefore one click = 1” inch at 100 yards. Since I was shooting at 25 yards the amount of adjustment required is higher. Moving the bullet an inch at 25 yards would require four times the adjustment than it would at 100. Therefore to adjust my scope 2” up and 1” left I needed to move the elevation knob 32 clicks (4 clicks @ 100 yards x 4 (factor for being at 25 yards) x 2 inches required target movement) and the windage knob needed to be moved 16 clicks.

With the adjustments made I tried a couple 3 shot groups at 25 yards on other targets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lastly, I moved back to the 50 yard marker to ensure that any minor adjustments were not required. I was happy with the way the gun performed and the rest of my day at the range was spent plinking!

Happy Shooting!

%d bloggers like this: