Re: recommendation for an 8wt rod?
Something you haven't asked about is line. I think this is as important, if not more so, than the rod and reel selection. The reel essentially holds the line, but if you get a big fish on there you need a drag system that you are comfortable with and trust. So that would be my concern in choosing a reel in that line weight - a good drag. I would also say a large arbor design will suit that environment better and a mid arbor.
As for the rod - my preference for the heavier rods is a tip-flex rod over a mid-flex. The tip's will be a little faster action.
Sage, Winston, and Orvis would be my preference, more so Orvis than the others. To that point an 8wt 9 foot Access rod would be in the ballpark of what you're looking at ~$425 for the rod.
I would NOT buy the Access reel. First off, it isn't a large arbor, and second I would not have the trust in that reel on a bigger rod/fish. I have one on my 4wt rod and it does fine there, but if I had to do it over again I would have picked something else. It just doesn't impress me quality-wise.
Tailor the line for what you want to do. I am guessing you have other rods in other weights (lighter?). So to that point you can isolate your types of fishing. If your purpose with the 8wt rod is to fish bigger water, bigger fish, and bigger flies then make sure you match that with a line that is going to deliver your flies. A good place to start is Scientific Anglers Titan Taper line. You have 2 things working for you with it - #1 = a heavy, thick weight forward taper that will carry a lot of weight, comparatively. #2 = the skin on the line is textured, not smooth. This will reduce drag through the rod as you cast because less of the line contacts the guides.
I have the SA Titan Taper on a 6wt rod and, compared to the WF trout line I had on there before, it totally transformed the capabilities of the rod. Where I used to struggle and get frustrated throwing bigger streamers and terrestrials the new line makes casting them a ton easier. I would imagine that capability would be even better on an 8wt over my 6wt.
Another thought on the heavier weight rods is the heavier the weight the less you'll be able to cast/handle it before wearing yourself out. I don't really consider that myself, but it may be a consideration in your fishing. You may burn your arm out quicker than, say, fishing with a 4wt.