So for a few years now the SHE has held down a place in my fly box and I have come to rely on it at times when other patterns have failed, usually as a spring large dark olive hatch begins to peter out and trout begin to refuse the flies which only an hour before proved acceptable. This is not a popular pattern though and it isn't the sort of thing you see very often in fly shops or other anglers' collections - certainly not compared to the ubiquitous klink and cdc styles upon which we so often rely.
Why this should be so is probably something to do with the fact that snowshoe hare foot isn't the easiest material to deal with. It took me a lot of trial and error before I was able to produce with any sort of consistency, SHEs which fished properly. That is to say, achieving the correct balance between sufficient fibres to give buoyancy without creating an overly bulky fly, always proves a bit tricky.
I think the reason for this is the way in which the wing is tied in. After snipping out a clump of fur from the underside of the foot and removing excess - but not all - soft underfur, the fibres are offered up to the top of the hook shank facing forward over the eye, in the same manner as one does with the deerhair when tying the DHE. The problem is that in order to provide sufficient buoyancy (and believe me, when you get it right this fly floats like a cork), it is tempting to tie in too much....and even after trimming the butts to a taper, you are left with a bulky abdomen on the fly behind the wing. Go too far the other way however, and the fly sinks quickly. Like I said, a delicate equilibrium!
The photo below shows one of my earlier attempts where I believe the balance to be about right.
Even in this instance, the abdomen is a little too fat for my liking. The fish might not have complained, but it has always rankled with me and I made it my mission today to find a way of working around this problem.
After a few aborted attempts, I settled upon dubbing a small pinch of the fibres around the shank by inserting them into a split thread and spinning, before stroking them back and upwards with each turn of the thread to create a more backwards sloping wing than on the original version. This allows a much slimmer abdomen to be dubbed over a bed of thread alone. The results are shown at the top of the post and I am reasonably pleased with them, although the trout will have the decisive vote. I'm not completely satisfied with the outcome - where I have lost the unwanted abdominal bulk, it has come back to haunt me again at the thorax area. That said, the pattern looks great from beneath when floated in a pint pot, and because the wing presents a slightly larger area in contact with the surface tension (in a similar manner to the spun cdc versus 'on stem' plume), I feel certain it will float in all but the roughest water. In fact I might be able to get away with a sparser pinch of the stuff than I have used here. Time will tell on that one........
Finally, I thought it might be interesting to include the image below which is a zoom-in upon on the snowshoe fibres themselves. The image quality isn't great because I have cropped so heavily, but hopefully you can see that the individual hairs are in fact hollow - the property which affords such buoyancy to flies tied with the stuff.....and which gives the snowshoe hare's feet a degree of insulation against the cold climate in which it dwells. It is an underused material - well worth buying some and having a play with.