Re: mid priced 5 wts.
I have rods from 7'6" to 9', and 8'6" seems to be my go to rod (especially
in 5wt). I briefly owned a Sage FLi 9' 6wt, but thought it was a bit stiff.
Action is becoming a difficult thing to describe: one angler's stiff rod is
another's fast rod. I don't see why fast and stiff have to go together.
I was able to cast just fine with the FLi, but thought a 5wt version would work better as a 6wt rod.
Some other rods to consider would be a St. Croix Avid (softer action than
a FLi), and a St. Croix Legend Ultra. The Legend Ultra is $340, but they can
be found new on ebay for around $250. St. Croix has a new warranty service
that covers used and broken rods (whatever the circumstance). For $50
(Sage's warranty fee), St. Croix will replace a used broken rod. I don't know
of any other company that will warranty used gear. Go to their website for
more info, and to see the rods specs.
I was able to cast a couple of TFO Pro 5 and 7wt rods recently, and they're
a decent deal for $160. Not too stiff, but responsive enough.
It's really best to cast a rod before buying it, but that's only available if you
have a local shop. I've driven 80 miles to try a rod, but shipping and return
shipping become less expensive for distances any greater.