November 4, 2012

The loss of two Adirondack sportsmen

By Dan Ladd

---- — Last month I found out within minutes of each other the passing of two friends who were both popular Adirondack sportsmen. They were Patrick Sisti of Indian Lake and Gerry “Chop” Choppy of Glens Falls.

There was no kinder man on this earth than Pat Sisti.

A fly-fisherman at heart and a gifted writer, Pat was frequently published in newspapers and magazines throughout the Adirondack region. The highlight of his writings, thus far, has to be the two essays he penned in 2004 in “Chicken Soup for the Fisherman’s Soul.” The story of how his granddaughter broke one of his favorite fly-rods is the epitome of what a grandfather is all about.

But Pat could write about other subjects, too, and sometimes often, and intentionally, he wrote for a smaller readership. He was proud of the fact that he gave up drinking many years ago. Each year on the anniversary of this milestone in his life, he would send out an essay he had written about it.

Pat’s last hours were spent doing what he loved: fishing in an Adirondack pond in his beloved Hornbeck Blackjack canoe.

He had a simple approach to fly-fishing. An entomologist he was not and often said something like, “When in doubt use an olive green woolly-bugger.” His approach to Adirondack ponds was patience: He would simply paddle around them a few times looking to pick up a few trout, then hit the middle. Once he found fish, he concentrated on those spots.

He would seldom let on the names of the ponds he fished, often calling them Mud Pond or Clear Pond, of which there are numerous ponds with those names just about anywhere you go. Or, he would name them after his grandchildren. He took me to a few of these ponds and made me swear to secrecy.

Pat was the king of goodwill. His Father Christmas gig where he went around to children’s hospitals and nursing homes was one of a kind. As a gift of thanks to Pat for his help in printing my first book, I asked my wife’s niece, a talented doll maker, to make a replica of Pat in his Father Christmas outfit. It became one of his most prized possessions.

My wife and I saw Pat less than two weeks before he passed giving what may have been his last fly-fishing seminar at the Adirondack Moose Festival in Indian Lake. We hadn’t seen him in awhile and all I can say is I’m sure glad that I did. I will miss him.

And then there is Gerry Choppy, one of the Horn Hunters who passed away after a battle with cancer. I’ve always found this group of Adirondack deer hunters who became popular in the 1980s to be an interesting bunch, and Chop was always foregoing with information and cooperating with me as a journalist. He helped put together the Horn Hunter’s very entertaining seminar video that they showed for years at the New York Whitetail Classic trade show.

Chop was a family man and once I got on his email distribution list I would get dozens of photos and stories of time spent with his family, of which he was very proud. He was also close to his hunting brethren and often mentioned the loss of fellow Horn Hunter Art Cronin when we got talking about hunting.

For the past four-plus years I’ve been involved with the writing and production of a video documentary called “Adirondack Deer Camp.” It is nearing completion and in it we’re profiling the various forms of deer camps in the Adirondacks, including tent camps.

After some initial filming of a few of the Horn Hunters didn’t come out well, Chop and Pete Bruno Jr. agreed to let us interview them again. It was a late-April day when they came to my house along with Pat Salerno Sr. and his son, Tim. We had a great time that day filming, telling stories and cooking moose steaks while watching a spring snowfall. If it had been November, it would’ve been a good tracking day.

Chop’s biggest contribution to the sporting community may have been the fact that he was a certified New York State Big Buck Club measurer. As a volunteer for the group, he scored hundreds, if not thousands, of bucks and could always be found doing his thing at the New York Whitetail Classic scoring sessions. In fact, he scored a few of my bucks.

I was beside myself the day I heard about losing Pat and Chop. All I can say is the bucks and brookies of the Adirondacks will be catching a break. Rest in peace my friends.

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at