Thanks to all who helped me with the advice in the other thread. I finally pulled the trigger, and got a great setup. The guys at Three Rivers Fly and Tackle really hooked me up. I figured about 300 or less for the rod, to have enough for reel, line, etc.
Anyway--they hooked me up with a Sage VT2 8 wt., Lamson Guru 3.5, RIO Clouser line, backing, etc, and it all came in under my budget of 600 bucks!!!
Awesome rod--casts great. And the crew at Three Rivers couldn't be better!!!