Re: So what is it that makes one rod better than the next?
I too have to agree with sweetandsalt on this point. I have 34 G.loomis rods (not all fly rods) and I can tell you that Steve Rajeff who designs for 'loomis can do things with those rods most of us will never do. Having said that, I can take a 7' GLX bass rod and a shimano reel and throw a lure a very long ways. I did not start that way, the rods pushed me to get every once of performance out of it, over time!
Same with my GLX fly rods. I could not double haul worth a nickel. Steve taught me to double hual and improved my distance quite a bit. However the rod, tallant and time will give you that which you want. Might not be a G.Loomis NRX, maybe a ONE, but it is something each one us can do if the desire is there to try different brands and see what each one will do in our hand.
"Never, never, never give up" Winston Churchill