Originally Posted by mnbassfisher
From talking to a few people I know that leader lengths and preferences depend on what you're throwing and where you're throwing it but for a newbie it can be a little overwhelming. It looks like the common lengths are 7.5", 9", and 12" when are these lengths preferred for you experienced anglers? I know a lot of experienced fly fisherman will tie their own leaders and not buy the tapered ones but until I learn a lot more I figured the tapered route was much better for starters. If you could share with me a little knowledge on what lengths you prefer and in what situations, that would help me out immensely!
Note: I didn't read every response to your question, so there is a good chance someone has already said this: KISS it (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This is a lesson that took me a little while to figure out when I was just starting out. Hopefully you can avoid my mistakes on this issue.
I take it from your post you are pretty new to FF in general. If that's the case, do yourself a favor. Do not overthink this aspect of flyfishing right now. Fly fishing is about 'tinkering,' and you will get there, but at the beginning you need to have a base line, somewhere to start. However, the basic rule I eventually learned was this: go as heavy and short as you can get away with, given the circumstances and of course the behavior of the fish.
If I were you, I'd start with a 7.5 ft. taper mono leader (assuming trout fishing here, either still/ or moving water, with a 8.5 ft. or a 9 ft. rod), and tie on about 2 ft. of mono tippet. Probably a good starting place would be a 3x leader and 4x tippet. Here's my reasoning: 3x leader is really easy to cast, and it's harder to tail loop, pile cast, etc. with a 3x leader. Also, the heavier leader will be less affected by wind. And finally, if you catch a decent fish and you aren't great at playing a fish on flyfishing gear yet, the heavier leader and tippet will help you land that chunk, instead of breaking him off and ruining your day.
This basic set up will be just fine about 80% of the time. You use longer/lighter leader/tippet combos to affect the presentation of your fly. In short, long, light leader/tippets drop the fly more softly. The downside: they are harder to cast for distance and accuracy, not to mention are less forgiving of casting mistakes. As you get better at casting you can go to 4x, then 5x, and so on.
Note: Of course, you'll get wind knots and have to cut the tippet off a few times a day at first. When you get down to about 6 ft. of leader, change it out for a new one. BUT do NOT throw away the used one
. Save it in a plastic baggie or whatever, and in a cool dark place when you get home. These things will come in handy later.
Hope that helps.