To be clear, a tapered leader—whether homemade or purchased—does the job. It connects your fly, and straightens out as it should. And every fly-fishing manual in the last 70 years says you absolutely, positively must use a tapered leader.
But here’s the thing: 90 per cent of the time, a straight piece of mono or flouro fishing line does the job just as well. Why? Because modern mono is flexible enough to transfer energy without a taper, especially when combined with today’s colossally improved lines and rods.
As fly gear has improved, however, it seems few anglers have bothered to question conventional leader wisdom. But, being both cheap and somewhat of a free thinker, I have. Since the early 2000s, I’ve been using simple one-piece mono leaders for almost all of my freshwater fly fishing. They cost about 20 cents each, and work perfectly. In fact, if you can’t get a nine-foot mono leader to land straight, you don’t have a leader problem—you’ve got a casting problem. (See www.outdoorcanada.ca/flycastfixes for help.)