Re: Is it really worth it ?
It sounds like you've been around this long enough to know the answer to your question already but I'll type anyway. As we both may know these days a rod with a price point around 150 dollars may work splendidly in the hands of a good caster as well as the 700 dollar rod.
When it comes to actual costs good fly rods have always been at a premium even in the sixties & seventies. Bamboo has always been high unless you went with production lines. When Orvis and Leonard introduced their low modulus graphite rods in the early seventies they commanded a princely sum for those rods.
Now here we are in the year 2013 and marketing has taken a few twists & turns in the fly rod business since the mid 80's. I believe it boils down to this, if a fella has 700 dollars to spend on a rod and is willing, then he will. To him it may well be worth it. If you or I can pick up a quality rod new or used at $150.00 it may seem well worth the price to us as well.
I don't get too caught up in rod pricing, 2 years ago last September Nancy and I were fishing the tide water in Valdez for silvers. I fished with an LL Bean Streamlight Spey rod I paid $185 for. There was a fellow up the shore line casting a Spey rod also. At the end of the day we were all walking up the beach toward the campsites and the fellow said, "What kind of rod are you using, I noticed it really reaches out there". I twisted the rod to expose the label and told him. He had a Sage Z Axis Spey rod dangling in his hand that cost over 800 dollars and he said, "I'm going to have to get one of those rods, it looks to cast really well based on the distance you were hitting".
What I took from that was that both the rods were pretty good but one cost more than the other. Really not much different than a car really, as long as your car is dependable and you drive it well then you'll drive what suits you and what you can afford. I have rods that were pretty expensive and I have rods that were pretty affordable, some are indeed better than others. I think that today it may be harder to pick a true winner because many are almost equal in performance and price. What I mean is 30 or more years ago there were not 20 'Must Have Rods', there were maybe half a dozen really different high performance sticks. Now there are a hundred in maybe 8 different price points.
I could go on but will stop with that.