Cost is the main reason. But a hand tied leader has advantages and disavantages, just like every thing else.
A hand tied leader will pick up "stuff" from the water that a tapered factory extruded leader may leave behind. I am talking about floating debris here, not fish. The little knots are good at that.
But you can tie the leader to meet you needs and wants by altering the length of the seperate
strands of material. It would be good to start with a formula that is tested and then tweak it as you find it needs tweaking.
There are only a few knots that are required or I prefer for tying a leader, The perfection knot for the butt to line connection, the blood knot for the strands and when I get down to the fine end, like say a 6x or 7x I use a surgeon's knot to tie the strands together. My fingers won't work with leaders that fine and tie a blood knot.
if you are fishing dry flies i like the bought tapered leaders, if your nymphing a homebrew leader is better. for deep chronomid fishing you can make your own leaders so you get the fly down deep with a floating line. it will save you money, i make some and buy some, its fun to make them, i use a barrel knot the majority of the time. i have no reason to get down to 6x or 7x
If i want a really long leader / tippet on a flaoter for chronnies I use Maxima flurocarbon off a spool, get them at Ted's 150 yards for $14.00. I use it if I want a leader 18 to 20+ feet otherwise I go full sink line for chronnies. Will you save money? Only you can answer that.
I do both. My only complaint about homemade is that if your are fishing a lake with floating vegetation the vegetation will get stuck on all those little knots. With a tapered factory leader you only have one little knot and the nail knot to clean. I like casting the homemade leaders for everything, they turn over better for me. But, I use both and fish whatever is on my rod. I bought a whole bunch of factory tapered leaders so for the last year I haven't fished any homemade. When fishing Rocky Ford I always use a factory tapered leader, lots of vegetation in the water.
I got in the habit of tying my own years ago. I haven't purchased more than 5 o 6 in twenty years. I find that I can custom build easier even though an initial outlay for numerous spools of material costs more. I've used them for everything from trout to sailfish and haven't been disappointed often. Once in a while they break but as cheap as they are to make, I change them regularly to avoid that. I started tying furled leaders a couple of years ago and do them in flourocarbon and monofilament as well; tied a bunch for a tuna trip this year out of 40 lb. mono and wound up using only one. I caught tuna without a problem and the leader is still in great shape. I just clip off a piece and tie on a tippet for smaller fish. For something like a tuna, I would roll it up and trash it when I got home if it wasn't to my liking
I also find that they don't pick up much junk from the water if I tie short blood knots of three or four wraps and clip them closely. Heavier sizes like the 40 lb. furled ones, I coat the knots with Knot Sense. You'd be surprised at how much information you can pick up from shops on formulas for different sizes and lengths of mono and flourocarbon.
I think Mr. Hixson said is all on the leader question.
To address the issue of cost, Tapered leaders cost in the neighborhood of $4.00. Give or take some pocket change. There are speciality leaders that may cost more, but seldom less.
You can make a leader with about ten feet of material. But the cost is predicated on the size and number of the spools of material you must use.
Most leaders start with a butt section of around .020 to .024 inch and descend in diameter to
to .006 or .008, and usually in .003 inch increments. This will be your initial investment. The only other cost is time and talent.
You can tailor the material to your pleasure using nylon, mono or what ever works for you.
If I can learn to tie them, I believe anybody on the thread can learn to tie them. It is not rocket science
until you see that 24 inch fish sitting there in the clear pool looking at your fishing fly. I am sure that the fisn is not interested in your other fly.
Like I said earlier, you only need two or three knots. They are easy to master.
After replacing the tippet 5 or 6 times, I lose about 3"s of leader per tippet tie in, I will trim the factory leader back to about 7 1/2' and tie in a new section of leader and then add new tipet. For example if I am using a 3X leader by the time I get to 7 1/2 " I will tie in about 2' or so 3X material and then add the 4X tippet. When the origional leader gets to be about 6' then I add 18"s or so of 2X then the 3X then the tippet. With a bit of experimentation these modified leaders turn over well and it extends the life of the base factory leader by several times so the $4 originally spent becomes negligable.
The key for me is to match my tie in portions with the base leader. If I am using say a salmon steelhead leader that tends to be a harder stiffer leader then my tie in portions need to be a harder stiffer material like RIO MAX. If the base leader is like a RIO trout leader which is a softer limper leader then the tie in would be something like RIO Powerflex material. Mixing harder and softer leaders generally spells disaster for me with the exception of tippet.
Well said, Dave. I usually replace my leaders with store bought at the beginning of the year. I tie a few for back up. I have six reels with differnet lines and two spools for all of them so that
is 14 leaders. I guess I am a gear nut. If I put a leader on all of the lines I have, well, there is a cost involved. I do not use all of these lines for the most part and some are speciality lines, so over the years, I have covered the cost. But it is fun sometimes to sit at the table and tie leaders when the winds blow and the rain comes and the pass is closed to travel due to snow.
As I get older, I appreciate the warm kitchen more than the cold riverbank.
I would ONLY use a tapered leader on stillwater if I was presenting dries, as that is what the taper is for, presentation. But If I am using a sinking line of any kind, I seriously don't bother with a tapered leader at all. 4 to 6 feet of regular P-Line fluoro, put a Surgeon's loop or a perfection loop in one end and connect to the loop of the sinking line...attach fly an fish.
I have the Frog Hair kit for leaders and used it for awhile for river fishing. Nice because you can make different tapers for say wind, big flies, very delicate, so on. Anymore, I use one leader on floating line (unless deep nymphing which is straight P-Line in 10' to 30') and that is a "Furled Leader" Perfect all around leader for nymphing, streamers, wets and dries on the rivers. Just add tippet. And if care is taken, they last a very long time.
Oh and I make my own.