Does it matter what brand of rod you use?
I have Sage and G-loomis rods, they all catch fish. I have fished with guys whose rods are no name brands or really cheap rods and they also catch fish. Are the expensive rods worth the money? What do you think it the best "cheap" rod out there?
basically a rod that casts the way it's supposed too.
I have some high end and some low end cheapo's and they cast great. I've also bought (and promptly sold) some high end rods I didn't like how they casted. I am sure they'd work in someone's hands but they sure as heck didn't in mine.
The other issue is warrenty. Many of the middle to high end companys have unconditional warrentys. I wont buy another fly rod without one. I have broke a couple rods mainly due to mishandling. BUt the thought brings me back to my first custom rod. This was back in JR school my mother bought for me as a bday present. Well one day my dad and I were going out and he promptly squashed it in the garage door after I left it there. Big oops on both our parts. come to find out that rod was a $300 fly rod 15 years ago!
Or the time I was giving a seminar in a low ceiling basement of a building. After the seminar people were going over my gear. A fella whose been doing this for as long as I had (we had fished together on more then a few trips), promptly snaped a rod tip off.
To me my experiences makes it much easier to spend a little more upfront for a rod I want, that is going to do what I want, and if I should break it, it'll get replaced for free or a very very marginal cost (I dont think any are over 50 bucks). That's not to say fred meyers doesnt sell a decent fly rod, they actually have in the past.
So there is no right or wrong answer, ya just gotta castem!
Broke my 7wt sage twice...
The rod that I blew the wad on broke twice, both times on the Kenai. Both times I sent it in and it was replaced, so I guess buying an expensive rod is good for that. Trouble is I have NEVER broken my cheap rods, even after years of abuse. Are the blanks of the high end rods softer?
The more high tech the rod, the thinner the walls and the more vulnerable to abuse like strikes from split shot or hooks, flexing too far while landing a fish, grabbing above the grip for fighting fish, etc. If you do any of those things, memorize the # for the repair shop and get acquainted with the stipulations on their warranty.
If that's your fishing style, as is probably necessary in the crowd on the Kenai/Russian, forget high tech and go with something a rung or two down built with thicker walls, but still with a good warranty. For me that spells St. Croix. They're tough, though if you're an expert caster you won't get as much out of them for long casts.
90% of the folks buying top end rods really can't justify the expense over those from further down the model lines, simply because they can't cast well enough with either for the difference to be anything but a waste of money. I've got top end Sage, Loomis, Winston, Powell, Scott and T&T, but especially for the first two, reserve them for situations calling for long casts. I'm talking throwing most, if not all of a fly line. If you can't do that, middle of the road rods from any of the manufacturers will do you fine, even if they weigh a little more in your hand.
Warranty from one manufacturer is more or less the same for their entire line, so that isn't an issue. Losing weeks or months in our short seasons for warranty turn around is a huge issue, however.