Re: St Croix Avid vs Ultra - Worth the $100 Premium?
No, it is not worth the extra $100. In fact, I would rather spend more to get the Avid then the Ultra. Much smoother rod. It will also be a very good rod for you to learn on as it has a little fuller flex and has more "feel" to it. The Avid rod has always been a winner and it has only gotten smoother with the new updates. More money does not always mean better rod and this is one of those situations.
As far as comparisons go, yes the Avid will stand next to an Orvis nicely. Technology these days is a funny thing. The manufacturers have gotten so good at making rods that to really feel the difference between most mid range and high dollar rods, you need to be an expert caster. The casual fisher will not notice or even need the different technology. I know that I appreciate my cortland grf-1000 rod as much as any of my higher end ones. It feels good and the line goes where I want it to and the best part is the fish don't care and eat my fly the same regardless of what rod I have.
The Avid has an unconditional lifetime guarantee and is a fine stick. St. Croix is a great company to work with for any customer service issues so have no concerns there.
The bottom line though is to go and cast and buy the one you like. It really does not matter if it is a fifty dollar rod. If it feels good in your hand, go and enjoy it.
All Means All