Wide Freaking Open

I intended to write this up on Saturday. But, the Cavemom came into town unexpectedly. Soooooo … you know … priorities!

I had been itching to get out on the water all week long, with the full moon on the way and the water starting to warm up. Because, to me, that means pre-spawn Bass. Definitely one of my favorite times of year to target big, fat bucketmouths who are on the chew as they prepare for the physical grind of the spawn.

I hit the lake around 3pm with high hopes as there was a nice light breeze that was putting a decent chop on the water. Though, we also had gin-clear skies, cool air temps, and somewhat stained water. I started out with a great bait for the fish I was expecting to encounter, which also happens to be one of my all-around favorite hardbaits: the Yo-Zuri Rattlin’ Vibe in the Gold, Black, Orange (GBO) pattern.

My second cast came to an abrupt stop and my pole doubled over when a nice 4-5 pound class fish nailed it and did an inverted 360 in the air. I was stoked that she wasn’t able to throw the lure on that maneuver. But, bummed just seconds later when she self-released near the dock as I reached for the net. Couldn’t get anymore love on that bait, despite trying a few more patterns. After trying numerous other baits, I finally went to a drop-shot to try and get the threat of skunk from joining me on the ride home. Finally, I got a little 1.5 pounder to cure me of the stripe. 5-11 Pre-Spawn BassI followed that up with a couple of 2 pounders on a small tail-spinner. But, that was about all the action I could entice. Ran into a couple of other anglers who were having similar slim pickins. I was thinking about calling it a day as the sun set behind the surrounding hills, but decided to hit one more spot before throwing in the pre-spawn towel.

About 2/3 of the way home on my very first cast, the Rattlin’ Vibe came to a complete stop. Suddenly, a fat football fish came flying out of the water and did an inverted 360 with a half-gaynor. She quickly followed with three more of the same move before dogging me hard back and forth across the bank. I finally slid the the round-bellied beast into the net, took this quick pic, and weighed her in at 5-11, before gently sliding her back into the lake.

5-1 Pre-Spawn BassAs usual, I quickly made another cast to the same area. Sure enough, in the same exact spot I tied into another big fish. This one wasn’t inclined to jump as much, as she cleared the surface only once. Though it was clear they trained together, as she made the same inverted 360/half-gaynor combo. When the dust finally settled from our protracted battle, she was in the net, in the pic, and on the digi scale. Her tally was a nice five pound and one ounce.

Sensing that I might have found a school of big fish, I quickly retied and sent my bait hurtling to the same vicinity. Once again, about 15-20 yards from shore, a big bruiser completely inhaled my offering. This one was “only” a 4 pounder. So, I gave her a quick release without putting her in front of the camera or on the scale.

Again, I fired back to the same spot and again got hammered in the exact same spot, which I had determined was a small hump that was holding this school of big pre-spawn fish. Unfortunately, this time, the fish didn’t stick. I decided to give that spot a rest for a second, and sent my bait flying toward some tullies on the other side of the bay I was fishing. I only got three or four cranks of the reel in when my rod went completely bendo and line started peeling off. I knew this was an even bigger fish and implored the fish to “stay down” the entire fight. I got her to shore and immediately found that she had swallowed the bait and was going to need some delicate surgery. Once I freed her of the hooks, I put her on the scale and, as the weight was settling in somewhere in the mid six pound range, I noticed she was bleeding out the other side. So, I quickly revived and released her without an exact tonnage or picture.

5-5 Pre-Spawn BassAfter another retie and a couple more fruitless casts to that side, I went back to the original spot. As the rattler made it’s way to the hump, it once again was mauled by another hefty heffer. She never cleared the water, but she pulled so hard that we were in an utter stalemate for what seemed like an eternity despite the 12 pound Yo-Zuri Hybrid line. I couldn’t believe my eyes as she literally jumped into the net … another monster mommy-to-be. Five pounds, five ounces, to be exact.

When my next two casts got hit but not inhaled. I decided to try some other baits. But, none of them could entice even a bump. So, after 15 minutes of trying, I went back to “what had brung me to the dance” earlier. 6-4 Pre-Spawn BassIt was a wise decision, as the very first cast with the Rattlin’ Vibe was viciously attacked at the hump. Again, line started peeling from the reel as the mammoth Largemouth zig-zagged the bay in search of something to snap me off on. When she finally gave up, I got this 6-4 pounder into the net and realized that I had just landed a “twofer”. Actually, she had just spit up a partially digested hand-sized Bluegill. Which also made me realize why the fish weren’t interested in the other baits I had just thrown. This was clearly “match the hatch” conditions.

5-4 Pre-Spawn BassI kept firing my bait in the direction of the hump, and continued to get hammered by large sized fish. Though, the next four fish had clearly downsized a bit to the 3 to 4 pound range. The school was still fired up, but the really big fish were clearly exercising caution. I began fishing the rest of the bay, hoping to find some other fish, but mainly to give the hot spot a little rest. After a 10 minute hiatus, I went back to the well one more time. Sure enough, lying in wait as my bait hit the hump was this 5-4 fatty. She gave me a couple of those patented inverted 360 jumps before she allowed herself to be lipped, picked, and weighed.

That was it. I made several more casts to the hump and around the bay. But, the bite had definitely turned off. Which was fine by me, considering the last hour and 15 minutes had been wide freaking open on some big mommas on the chew before the spawn. I ended the day with 14 fish, and a top five with a weight over 27 pounds. Now you know why this is one of my favorite stages of the year for catching big bass. Though, that window is usually very short. So, be sure to get out there when it opens in your area of operation.

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Calling Our Shots

Late last year, I wrote about getting my line wet with my new fishing friend, “Dr. J”. An incredibly nice and talented angler who prefers his anonymity. On Wednesday, we decided to head out for another session on Lake Sherwood despite our reservations about the post-front, windless, “bluebird sky” conditions.

As we hit the water midday, Dr. J asked me where I wanted to start. Since the water was cold and turbid from the Winter storm that had just passed, I felt that we should fish any areas that had sun-facing rocks extending into the water which would give the fish a warmer environment. We aimed his sled at a rocky island in the middle of the lake.
While I started throwing some reaction baits, he opted to drop-shot some ten year-old Powerworms with tons of glitter because he felt the dirty water called for “some bling in the bait”. 3.5 Pound Lake Sherwood BassIt only took him a cast or two to hook up with a nice 2.5 pound skunk-buster. As we moved along a cattail covered bank, he hit up two more similar sized bass. That was enough to convince me to join the DS party. I grabbed my ultra sensitive Big Bear Finesse Rod adorned with a 4.5 inch Aaron’s Magic Roboworm and, sure enough, I scored my first fish of the day with another cookie-cutter sized model.

We swung around to the far side of the island that has a small bay coming off of a rocky point where I have had chatterbait success previously. So, I called my shot as I casted out a Cave Custom Boogee Bait into the bay. BOOM! This nice 3.5 pounder nailed it as I slow-rolled it back toward the point. A few casts later, I had another similar sized one crush it just a couple of cranks into the retrieve. We decided, then and there, to appropriately name that area “Chatter Bay”.

4 Pound Lake Sherwood BassWhen the bite died down there, it was time for Dr. J to call his shot. So, we headed for a tullie island nearby where he had a good crankbait bite going recently. It only took him two casts to connect with a nice 3.5 pound bruiser (he insists on no pics). Meanwhile, I decided to stay with the Boogee Bait. That turned out to be a smart move because this hefty 4 pound class fish nailed my bait about 10 feet from the boat!

We made our way around the rest of the island and Dr. J was able to manage one more nice 3+ pound fish on a football jig before we moved on to my next call … a sheer rock wall that falls into deep water along the side of the lake. This is a great spot for the drop-shot. About half way down this stretch, I put the bait right into a little nook in the wall and, as it slid down the underwater face, I felt the slightest of ticks. I slowly reeled down and, when I got that spongy feel, set the hook on what instantly felt like a good fish. She dogged me hard in the deep water on the 6 pound test Yo-Zuri Hybrid line for several minutes before 4.5+ Pound Lake Sherwood Bassshe came up and unwillingly slid into the net. We snapped this pretty picture of the 4.5+ pound pigskin before sending her back to the depths.

When we couldn’t entice anymore action in that spot, Dr. J made the call to go across the lake to another “walled” section. There he was able to score his best fish of the day, a 4+ pound battler on his football jig, while I got one more on the DS … another 3+ pound fatty.

It was getting late, the sun was almost down, and it was turning quite cold. So, we decided to head back to our original spot before calling it a day. As we approached the point leading back to our newly named bay, I thought the conditions were perfect for my favorite hardbait … the Yo-Zuri Rattlin’ Vibe in the gold, black, and orange pattern. As I slow-rolled it back along the rise of the point, the bait suddenly came to an abrupt stop and my rod went BENDO! Big fish on!! I kept my rod tip down to keep her from jumping and shaking the 5 Pound Lake Sherwood Bassfree of the trebles. Finally, we got this 5 pound-class fish on board for our thirteenth, and final, fish of the day.

As we made our way back to the docks, we both reflected on how surprised we were that the bite was quite decent considering the conditions, and how the quality of the fish were so impressive. This session really proved the old adage that the fish are always there, regardless of the conditions. You just need to figure out what the fish need in order to be happy and hungry. In this case, it was all about where the water was holding the most heat, and the Winter’s sun reflecting off of the rocks near deeper water was truly the place to be. We also heartily patted ourselves on our backs for calling our shots. But, no worries … there were no broken arms in the process.😉

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A New Year’s Wish

From our Cave Clan to you and yours, a wish for a healthy, happy, and happening 2016!

Fondly,
The Avery Family

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Backseating With Dr. J

4.5 Pound Lake Sherwood BassFor a few years, I have been fishing from the Lake Sherwood docks when another local angler, who I will dub “Dr. J” (no, he is not a Hall Of Fame former basketball star), would often dock his boat after a day or evening on the water. Several months ago, he politely invited me to join him on his converted Bass boat for an evening session. As it turned out, we had a lot of things in common besides our love of fishing, and made plans to get together again on the lake. Due to scheduling issues, we weren’t able to accomplish a rerun until yesterday, when we set out for a 6 hour session under bluebird skies, calm winds, 50° air temps (though, it did rise to 70° for a short time), and cold and stained Winter-water conditions.

Our first stop was near a small trench that ran parallel to a bank, about 25 feet out. Looked like the perfect spot for some Winter rattle trappin’ with my favorite Yo-Zuri Rattlin’ Vibe in the GBO pattern. Sure enough, my third cast came to an abrupt halt as this 4+ pound fish decided to chomp down on my offering. She really put on a great tussle before Dr. J deftly slid the net under her and snapped this pic.

4.5 Pound Lake Sherwood BassWe fished the area for a bit longer, but only could coax one more slap at the lipless crankbait before we moved to fish the banks surrounding a nearby island. Dr. J managed a couple of nice keepers on his custom jig (sorry folks, no pics … he insists on anonymity), while I could only get a short bite on a mid-diving crank. Despite trying numerous other options around the island we couldn’t get anymore bites.

Our next stop was along a rip-rap bank. When I realized that there was another channel about 10′ deep running parallel to the bank, I felt it was another great spot for the Rattlin’ Vibe. It only took one cast to be proven right when another 4+ pound beast put the brakes on my slow-roll retrieve. Again, despite the cold water conditions, this fish was ready for a fight and gave me all I could handle before we got the lip, pic and acquit.

5 Pound Lake Sherwood BassJoel picked up another jig fish in the same area before the bite died there. So, we headed out to do some deep-water drop-shotting along some shear rock walls. We were able to pick up several nice keepers with this method on some Margarita Mutilator Roboworms. Time began running out, and the wind was picking up. We decided to hit the flats near the first island we fished, hoping the breezy conditions would turn the bite on. We fished it hard, but found no love. I suggested we give the lee side of the island a try, fishing the edges there for any ambushing Bass. We worked our way over to it and, when I had the perfect alley for a parallel cast, made a long “Dinnertime, dinnertime, din-din-dinertime” cast right to the waters edge. I only got about four handle cranks in, when the I hit that virtual brick wall and my rod went totally bendo. I knew I had the day’s best fish on even before she tried to come up and shake the Rattlin’ Vibe free. I kept my rod tip in the water and the line tight to keep her buttoned up. After a couple of dog dives under the boat, Dr. J swung the net under this 5 pound-class hawg.

We ended the day with 5 fish each, and an even stronger bond as angling buddies. A great day, to be sure. And, I’m looking forward to the next excursion, on one of my favorite fishing locales, with my newfound fishing friend.

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Pig Fest 2015

For me, there is no better Bass fishing than when the Fall bite truly begins. The big fish move up, throwing all caution to the wind, while they voraciously pack on the “LB’s” before the cold of Winter sets in. It’s a reaction bait fisherman/woman’s dream as the action can be fast, furious, and phenomenal. We got the first inkling of it last week when Mark “Chief” Torrez and I hit up Lake Sherwood for about 30 fish between us. Though, most of the fish were in the 3 pound range. However, last night as I found myself flying solo on an 80° windless evening, the annual Fall Peg Fest was clearly underway.

5-3 PounderThe sun had already set as I threw out my first cast with a Yo-Zuri Rattlin’ Vibe in the GBO pattern to a rock point of a nearby island, which brought no reaction at all. You know when you see a spot that you think is a perfect place to hold fish? Many times, unfortunately, there is no fish there … or, you just can’t seem to draw their interest. Well, as I glanced to my left, I saw a little point jut out from the row of tullies on the island’s shoreline. I threw my next cast past it and high-sticked my bait to keep it just above the tall grass which was only 1 foot below the surface. As it came by the point, a huge fish exploded out of the water knocking my lure three feet into the air. I quickly recasted to the same spot and, just past the little tullie point, a nice 3 pound classer hit my bait but immediately jumped up and threw the lipless crank. My thinking was to quickly reel in and hit that spot again. However, I only got about 2 more handle cranks in when my rod suddenly went completely bendo, and my best battle of the year ensued. I was sure I had an 8+ on the line … but, as I finally slid her into the net I could see she wouldn’t quite make that weight. Though, I wasn’t disappointed when she tipped the digi scale at 5-3.

5-5 PounderAs I unhooked her, I noticed that she had completely swallowed the bait. Which gave me confidence I was on the right track … and, boy, was I! After quickly retying, I shot the Rattlin’ Vibe back to the very same spot. Sure enough, as it went by that point … BOOM! Another giant fish inhaled it!! This one put on an aerial show worthy of Cirque Du Soleil. When I finally got a hold of her, I knew I was onto something good. After weighing her in at 5-5, getting the pic, giving her a little CPR, and retying the frayed line once again, I quickly gave the same spot another try. It worked! Another big fish just couldn’t resist. This time, a four pound class beast completely swallowed the bait. After performing some deft surgery, I gave her a quick release with no pics or weigh-in. But, with three huge fish in three casts, I knew I wasn’t through.

6-5 PounderAnother quick retie, and I was back at it. Could I go 4 for 4??? No. Though, I did go 4 for 5, as the next cast to the same spot produced a hefty 3.5 pounder … perhaps the one that came unbuttoned earlier. When the rattle bite finally died down, about 45 minutes into the session, I had landed 8 fish with a best five right around 22 pounds! But, my night wasn’t over.

After getting my first buzzbait fish of the season, a nice 3+ pounder, I decided to tie on my Cave Custom Boogie Bait which is perfect for brushing the top of the shallow grass. It wasn’t getting any love and I was just about to try something else when, halfway home on the retrieve, my line came to a sudden stop. My pole doubled over and, when the line started to peel off of the reel, I knew it wasn’t a snag. Fish on! The 6-5 mammoth kept diving under the dock and the moored boats … it was an epic fight. But, finally, Neanderthal triumphed over beast and we posed for this nifty shot.

5-4 PounderOn that high note, I was about ready to call it a night. However, I decided to try one more spot on my way out of the lake area. I knew the Boogie Bait would probably be the ticket there. I wasn’t wrong. My third cast (again, the lucky third cast) brought home another 3 pound classer. Then, a few casts later, another 4 pound classer. Then, nothing. The bite seemed to die even though I could hear fish busting bait in the darkness. I let the area rest for 5 minutes then gave it one last try … BOOM! Another big fish on!! After I finally lipped this hawg and took the photo op, it came in at 5-4! Giving me a baker’s dozen, and a final top 5 total of over 26 pounds. That was it … I headed home happy to have been a part of such an colossal bite. Pig Fest 2015 is on!

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Catching Casitas Fire

I should have posted this 2 days ago. But, the Caveboy’s birthday celebration got “in the way”. Oh, well!😉

Lake Casitas Day StarterAfter being on the DL for nearly a month with a major muscle tear on the back of my ribcage, I finally hit the water again. Thanks to the generous invitation by fellow UFC member and fishing fanatic, Rick “R2” Raives, to join him on his cherry red Skeeter for a day of fishing on Lake Casitas near Ojai, CA. It looked to be excellent conditions with high air temps at 78°, little or no breeze, overcast grey skies, and tons of Shad in 4-14 feet of water. Our expectations for a good top water bite, and incredible action overall, were very high.

We started our day about 6:20am on a particularly fishy bank … usually. We could see and graph bait everywhere. But, for some reason, the fish were nowhere to be found. Nothing busting the Shad on the surface and very few marks on the electronics. Though, we kept hitting the banks and secondary points along the shoreline. Finally, after about 40 minutes, Rick got bit on a split-shot Don Iovino Little Slugger. Unfortunately, the fish wouldn’t stay hooked. However, it only took a few more minutes before I was able to get this tournament sized day-starter on the same set-up.

4 Pound Lake Casitas BassAlthough, this definitely emboldened our outlook, the fish still weren’t cooperating. The bites were few and far in between, and the few we did get were nipping at the tail. We switched over to the other side of the channel and, about halfway down, we entered a little cove. As we came to the back of it, R2 mentioned that he had gotten some fish in the middle of the bay as his cast settled into that exact zone. I turned to him and said, “Well then, you ought to get bit right now!”. Not three seconds later I saw him reel down and lean back into the hookset. Six pound line immediately began pulling off of his reel … this was a nice fish. I grabbed the net and anxiously waited as the fish repeatedly dove to the depths. But, Rick stayed calm and expertly fought the fish into submission before holding this 4 pounder up for the victory pose.

After a couple more fish that weren’t photo worthy, we decided to make a run to another area we often find success. It starts with a nice 3+ Pound Lake Casitas Bassrocky bank. Unfortunately, the few fish we found there were on the diminutive side. Though, I did score the one fish we would get that wasn’t on the Iovino finesse bait … it inhaled a shad colored Markey Tommy Tailgunner. After working a long stretch of secondary points and banks, we came to a huge bay that had a boat fishing the far side. As soon as he spotted us, though, he pulled a 180 in an attempt to cut us off and keep the massive spot to himself. We didn’t come within range of each other until we had reached the very back of the cove. As we went to move around him some 100 yards clear, he kept casting at us to ensure his dominance of the area. R2 and I kind of laughed to ourselves until we were well clear. Suddenly, Rick hooked into a nice 2+ pounder, which clearly pissed off our fishing neighbor. He must have been livid, however, when Rick tied into this 3+ pound jumping and thrashing beast just two casts later.

We were still enjoying the instant karma rebate we had bestowed upon that guy when my day took a sudden painful turn. We were coming to the far point of the bay, where the flies and other insects were plentiful. I had been buzzed by what I 2+ Pound Lake Casitas Bassthought was a fly that stealthily landed on my hat. I was too busy trying to get my own karma fish when that “fly” climbed down to my hat’s edge and planted a stinger right into my left temple. I swung in vain at my attacker as it flew off, revealing itself to be a large wasp. Needless to say, it was quite painful … other than your eyes, lips, or genitals, I can’t think of a more sensitive spot. The side of my face throbbed the rest of the day. But, of course, it didn’t slow me down one bit. We continued on, catching a few more fish that weren’t worth a photo op. Even returning to our original area in the hopes that the bite had turned on there. It hadn’t. At least, not to the degree we were hoping.

It was getting late, so we decided to try one more spot that we can usually find willing participants. As we settled in to it, my very first cast got slammed. However, my hook returned with just a 1/4″ piece of my bait still attached. Though, it was a sign of things to come. A short time later, I hooked into another of the smaller keeper variety. Then, I got hammered by a fish that seemed to be of a larger model. Despite his dogged battling capabilities, this 2+ pounder’s lack of girth surprised us after sliding into the net.

3+ Pound Lake Casitas BassI hooked into a couple more before R2 finally joined in on the action of our new found honey hole. The further along we went, the more active the fish were becoming. We were even starting to see the first real surface busting we had witnessed all day long. As we turned the corner on this long stretch of bank, and I dragged my bait across the point, I felt the faintest of taps on my super-sensitive Big Bear finesse rod. I gave it a quick-snap hookset and watched as my rod went bendo. She instantly went airborne and really put on a show for us. It was my best fight of the day and ended up resulting in this 3+ pound fatty.

We nailed a couple more tourney-sized swimmers before we reluctantly had to leave them biting. When we tallied up our fish count on the way back in, Rick informed me that our 23 Bass total was the best his boat had seen on Lake Casitas. Certainly, my 14 fish score was my PB on that lake, as well. We didn’t land any monsters, but the action was good most of the day, and on fire at the end. It all definitely made the ride home enjoyable for us both … and, the throbbing in my head much less agonizing for me!

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Missed Opportunities

I know it has almost been a week since this trip occurred, but I have been very busy with the end of baseball playoffs and the beginning of the All-Star season (Yes, the Caveboy made it!). Such is the life of a Neanderthal Pony League manager, I suppose. With my excuses done, on to the story at hand.
My good friend and fellow UFC fishing fanatic Rick “R2” Raives offered to take me out on his red Skeeter for a day of fishing at Lake Casitas. We arrived at 6AM to temps in the 50’s, overcast skies, light winds, and warm slightly stained water. By the way, the lake is as low as I’ve ever seen it … the “marina” is about half a mile from where it normally is!
We started out on the North side of the lake. With the fish chasing the huge Shad spawn, I started out tossing a small Shad patterned Tommy Tail Gunner tail-spinner. On my third cast, my medium-heavy rod goes completely bendo on a nice sized fish. Unfortunately, halfway home, the fish just came unbuttoned without so much as a jump. Not the way to start one’s day! When I couldn’t get anymore action on that bait, I started tossing the new 2.75 Pound Lake Casitas BassDon Iovino Little Slugger in the Jorge Special pattern. It only took a couple of casts to get a taker … a very small keeper that wasn’t picture worthy. I followed that up with another cookie-cutter sized fish a few minutes later. This enticed my fishing partner to jump on board the pattern that was working and he quickly got the skunk off with our dinkiest fish of the day. Even though the fish were on not the biggest, they were really fighting hard for their size.
When that area slowed down, we moved to a rock-lined point and bank. I shot the tail-spinner parallel to the shore and got slammed a 1/3 of the way home. After a good tussle that felt like a 5+ pound fish, this 2.75 pounder found his way onto the boat and into the shot.
4+ Pound Lake Casitas BassI got hit a couple more times before we made our way to the back of the bay. As we cruised the back bank, I told Rick he was going to get nailed in this area. Not 30 seconds later, he was fighting a nice little keeper. He released that one without a pic. But, on the very next cast, he would tie into another fish … but, this one had some size to it. And, some fight. He battled the fish back and forth, yelling to me as I waited to net it “He’s sounding on me!”, as the fish repeatedly dove for deeper water. When the tussle finally ended he was posing with this quality 4 pound-class fish.
That was about the time the clouds broke and we began fishing under blue bird skies. Of course, it didn’t help the fishing. We got plenty of hits on the Little Sluggers, but they were tail-biting them and missing the hooks. I managed three more small keepers, while R2 got one more and a nice Rainbow Trout that actually chased his bait out of the water!
We both had afternoon commitments, so we had to end it earlier than we would have liked. However, as I called “Last cast!” and started dragging the bait across a pebble-bottomed point, I felt the slightest of pick-ups on my Big Bear worm rod. I set the hook and immediately thought I was snagged. Then, the snag started fighting back. My rod totally doubled over and I knew I had a huge fish on. But, just before I could get a secondary hookset on the fish, she raised her bowling bowl sized head up out of the water, opened up her mouth (which I could have easily fit my Caveman-sized head into), and with one flick sent the hook flying back at me. To say the least, I was crushed. Especially having started and ended my day in similar fashion. Though, it just leaves me with the desire to get back there ASAP to try it again!

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