Re: Favorite less expensive rods / reels?
Probably someone already mentioned the St. Croix Imperial, but just in case . . . I pulled the trigger on this stick after much research and reading all the unanimously positive reviews about this rod. I still take it with me on every trip. It is a fast action, albeit with a fairly soft tip, so extremely short single false cast manuevers are not its forte, but for a general purpose 4 wt. I think it's tough to beat.
As for cheap reels, I have several Okuma SLVs, which are slowly being phased out for upgrades, but they are decent reels with very good drags (cork) at a very low price point. They are a bit fragile though, compared to the machined aluminum reels I favor now, but as boat/float tube reels they are as good as anything out there.
"Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn." ~Chuck Clark