Re: Hardy and Winston Spey Rods?
I've got the TFO Deer Creek 13' 7/8. It's my first double-hander, and have only been fishing with it (well, casting anyway) for a couple of years. The detail and finish isn't up to the Hardy in Ard's pictures, but it's a quality rod and I'm liking the feel of it. I'm casting a 550 Rio skagit flight and it seems to cast well with that. TFO has a really good lifetime warranty, and you can't beat the price.
I obviously can't compare it to the other rods you've listed, but from what I can tell the Deer Creeks are a bit stiffer than some other double-handed rods. My buddy's got both a Loomis GLX Dredger 8/9 and a Deer Creek 8/9 and he's noticed the Dredger is much more progressive and fuller flexing than the Deer Creek.
Ard, I like your method of placing the tip of a rod on the floor and pushing down gently on it--a salesman in a fly fishing store showed me that method a few years ago and said it was more reliable way of assessing a rod's action and flex than "wiggling" it. I now use that method on new rods I buy, but I can't seem to help myself from giving them a wiggle as well.