Patrick Sisti died while on assignment, engaged in two activities he loved: fishing and writing.
A longtime Capital Region resident who in recent years lived in Indian Lake, Sisti died Oct. 2 near a pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area in the northern Adirondacks, apparently while putting his canoe back on top of his vehicle after a day of fishing.
His friend, Larry Abele, a former aquatic biologist for the Department of Environmental Conservation, had asked Sisti to leave word with him about where he was going, what car he would be driving and what time he planned to fish. When Abele hadn’t heard from Sisti after 6 p.m., he contacted the forest ranger in the area.
Four hours later, he heard back from the ranger and learned what had happened.
Sisti was a member of the Clearwater chapter of Trout Unlimited and was well-known in the Capital Region fishing community as a devout angler.
“He was a good friend who spent his last day doing what he loved, paddling an Adirondack pond in a Hornbeck canoe,” said Geoff Schaacke of Ballston Spa. “He loved everything about fishing and especially enjoyed teaching kids and newcomers. His passion for life was contagious, and he continuously reminded me that fishing isn’t always about catching fish. I will miss him very much.”
Fishing was only one of the things Sisti loved. From his obituary, published by Miller Funeral Home in Indian Lake:
“He was a well-known author, writing about the Adirondacks and had read his stories at Cafe Lena in Saratoga Springs.
“He played Father Christmas at the Victorian Street Walks in Saratoga Springs and at various nursing homes.
“He was a licensed Adirondack Guide and an accomplished fly fisherman.
“He volunteered at the Dance Flurry festival and enjoyed contra and zydeco dancing.
“He was a Hospice volunteer and enjoyed traveling, especially to the Southwest.
“He was the Master of Ceremony for the NORI awards in Albany [advertising].
“Most recently, Pat had studied Shamanism.”
The day he died, he was planning to take photos to accompany a story. He had been assigned a piece on Adirondack trout fishing by Adirondac magazine, said editor Neal Burdick.
“I’d love to do it, and you have perfect timing,” Sisti emailed the magazine upon being asked to write the piece. “I have to get back to writing again, and this is a damn good reason.”
The morning of his last day, Sisti posted this on his Facebook page:
“I’m off to go to an Adirondack [ADK] pond this morning. I’m writing an article for the ADK Mountain Club about ADK ‘brook trout’ pond fishing, my writing niche. Be nice if I caught something. Gonna use Adirondack bacon; nightcrawlers!! The season closes on Oct. 15th so I only have two weeks to gather info. I’ll post the story on my blog when it’s finished. Wish me luck!!”
In the tradition of the Adirondack angler who doesn’t fish and tell, Abele declined to say exactly where Sisti went for his final outing.
“We had this pact that we never told people about his favorite ponds. I broke it when I told the ranger where he went,” Abele said. “I’m afraid there would be a strike of lighting if I told anybody where it was.”
PROJECT HEALING WATERS
A Capital Region chapter of Project Healing Waters is being formed, and it needs volunteers to help.Project Healing Waters was first established at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., “dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly-fishing and fly-tying education and outings,” according to its mission statement.
Today, there are 136 chapters in 46 states, all managed locally by volunteers and based mostly at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. The Albany chapter will meet monthly at the Albany VA hospital to offer lessons in fly-tying and fly-fishing for disabled vets.
Some participants come to Project Healing Waters with an interest in fly-fishing, while others come simply to learn something new, said Robin Hill of Saratoga Springs, who is leading the effort to establish the chapter.
“It provides a meeting for any disabled vet, from any war, an introduction and ongoing participation in fly-fishing,” Hill said. The group’s goal would be to get those members who are so inclined out on the water next spring, he said.
Volunteers need only a basic knowledge of fly-fishing and the willingness to pass it along, he said.
To volunteer or to learn more, email Albany Project Healing Waters Flyfishing at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at email@example.com.