Re: How important is rod/reel balance?
I think balance i somewhat overhyped but I don't think it's completely wrong to shoot for it.
As an example, I recently picked up an 8'6" 4wt that I took to with me to DC. I didn't have time to pick up a reel for it so I ended up using a spare 5/6 MFC Madison II on it. That reel is heavy even for it's weight class but on the 4wt, it was extremely heavy. Did this affect the number of fish I caught? No, but the imbalance was noticeable. I later switched the reel out for an Okuma SLV 3/4 and the difference was night and day.
With that said, would I be able to comfortably fish with the MFC reel on there all day? Absolutely - the lighter reel was just more comfortable.
Example 2 - 9' 8wt BVK. I had the allen alpha ii on there initially and despite being a great reel, it really was quite heavy. After 5 or so hours, I was definitely feeling the imbalance. I later switched that reel out for the new Kraken which is much lighter and the difference was enormous. Fishing for 10 hours...not a problem.
I guess what this boils down to, at least for me, is that on lower wt rods, the imbalance isn't that big of a deal. When it comes to longer casts on heavier gear like an 8wt or higher, the imbalance poses a pretty big issue.