No 6X or 7X here but probably for a different reason than you experienced guys. Early last year I had too many break-offs with 7X. This year I've tied some tiny midges so I'll have it with me, but will not use it unless I have too.
When you get to the point that you KNOW your drift is drag free (and it often isn't).
When you KNOW the fly is a perfect match (and it often isn't).
When the fish finally, comes up and eyeballs your offering, only to swim away.
That is when we need to think about smaller tippet.
The majority of water 5x will do, but there is a stretch of water (or two) here, that warrants a 12-15ft 7x tapered leader to play (well), (no 8x yet).
I wish it wasn't true, because it takes more game/luck to land fish in the 6+lb range,
on 2 1/2 lb test. Advantage fish.
Clear, low-water, and seriously smart fish = fine tippets.
Like jackster said, you can't tie on a #26 midge on 5x.
Landing them, is a whole different matter.
all the rivers I fish are gin clear at some stage I can normaly get away with a 5x leader with 6x tippet in the 5-12ft size (more 5 and 9ft) this is for nymphs and most drys. I know that for midges I should be fishing much lighter but is 7 or 8x going to be fair on a 14-16 lb fish (I normally spend some time watching a school of fish this size feeding on puppas and emergers)
I have had fish rise to wets on the first cast (in a river that gets a bit of attention being one of the most popular of the area) with a leader of 4ft of 7lb tippet straight on to the line
Chris, now that's the kind of problem I need to deal with. Anytime your tippet is half the weight of the fish, or less, it's tough. Do you use flouro at all?
You are correct about being fair, and a good man to boot.
If it takes longer to resucitate them, than it did to play them, we've blown it.
And I hate leaving flies in their lip.
There are times I use a longer leader in the 14' range, but have never had to resort to 7x, the smallest I use is 6x and that is only on highly pressured water such as The Henry's Fork. However, with any size tippet you must know your limits and abilities and not play the fish to exhaustion.
In my opinion, if your getting refusals on 6x it's time to look for other causes....wrong fly, gunk on your fly/leader, bad presentation, sometimes a knot being too big and improperly tied,......or maybe your just working a very wise ol' fish that has kicked many fly fishermen's behind.
For myself, finding that big old fish working is the funnest type of fishing, I get a lot of pleasure out of trying to figure out the puzzle and having my heart jump when he comes up to either flat out refuse the offering or bumps it. As long as I can keep from putting him down and he's willing to play, I'm staying put.
Sometimes if there is not another fisherman around and you've been working a tough fish, it's not improper to just give the fish(and yourself) a break, go lay on the bank and watch him for a while and then try another approach.
There are some of you that may have seen these photos from a blog site I now frequent. My personal success is usually a tribute to how hard I try to understand all those factors that may influence my catch rate. We all get to make a decision on what tippet we use, a 5x tippet, 6x tippet or even an 11x tippet. What I will not do is limit my fishing to one style, size of leader, rod, reel, or tippet diameter. If somebody is catching fish using size 7 or even 11 I am willing to give it a try or at least understand and have it in my arsenal.
I believe there to be some method to the madness of subtle presentation. As you may know, the rule of thumb is to divide fly size by 3 to get tippet size. So a #18 fly "requires" 6x. Sometimes I'll break the rules and go "one up" on tippet size. So 7x for a #24. Right now I'm not fishing flies smaller than #26 although I've seined naturals in the #30 range!!! I think there are also benefits in using fluorocarbon tippet in gin clear conditions for super spooky trout! The tippet I carry with me at all times for Rocky Mountain trout fishing:
Mono - 4x, 5x, 6x
Fluoro - 5x, 6x, 7x
I usually buy 3x or 4x leaders so the above tippet sizes work well. I just about NEVER use tippet bigger than 4x or smaller than 7x. Also, for the most part, I personally fish leader in the 9' - 15' range. This is what works for me!
As has been pointed out, a big part of your decision making is tied into what YOU feel confident about. At the same time, be open to other methods so that you can experience other ways of doing things that might end up working for you and BECOMING a part of what YOU feel confident about.
---------- Post added at 06:38 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:24 PM ----------
Everyone is entitled to use whatever size tippet they desire, I just hope they use the "right tool for the job"....meaning, that using 11X tippet for a trout/fish that size/weight is far outside the realm of safely being landed without being played to exhaustion.....is in my opinion, wrong.
Some will do this only to play "Tag" with the fish or as some may say "Touch" the fish. I feel that is wrong in itself because you are usually going to leave a fly in the lip of the fish, sometimes with a length of tippet trailing along, which in itself can cause other problems.
Not trying to hack on anyone here, just making the point that 11x is inappropriate for a 5 pound fish, much like 3x would be ineffective in landing a 35# King timely.
In the old fly fisher's blog link I posted he clearly states that he has never landed a fish over 14.5" on a #30 fly. If you pay attention to your common sense, fyshstykr is right, don't expect to land a 20" plus fish on 11x.