Futzer, thanks for the advice. Question, on the tail it is the length on the shank, Is that where I start to tie or is it from the end of the bend on the hook?
That is the length you want sticking off the back tied in right at the start of the bend of the hook. As for tie in area, mine vary by the pattern, most times you can leave a length as long as the body materials for a little build up under the body. Also practice tying in the hackle stem, and any wound in body like peacock herl with two wraps, then one behind the material and one more in front, that locks it in and is a minimal amount of thread for the job.
The videos made by David Camiss (http://www.youtube.com/user/topflyman) were an inspiration to me when I was thinking about tying flies. I am far from expert at this point, but I can't think of many things I'd rather do when I have some downtime. Tie on!