Originally Posted by k9mark
Im looking for something in the 300 to 500 dollar range. I also should have asked about lines too
Well there are certainly some good options in that price range. The Sage VXP in 9' 8 weight retails at $500 and is a hell of a rod, one of my favorite blanks. It has a fast action good for throwing large flies and generating high line speed to penetrate wind. The Orvis Access 9' 8 weight retails at $400, This rod comes in what Orvis calls a "tip flex" meaning most of the action is in the tip of the rod, softer tip with a stiff butt section, this translates to power for big flies, sink tips, and leveraging large game fish, I am also very fond of this blank, it's the old Helios blank w/ out all the bells and wistles, recoil guides, wood insert, fancy hardware, for those of you Orvis guys.
The St. Croix Legend Elite is another great blank retailing at about $450 give or take, again this has a similair action to the tip flex orvis access, and brags a nice green smooth casting blank. If your willing to shovel out about $575 you could get yourself a Loop Opt-stream 9' 8 weight which is a sweeeeeet rod. This thing is loaded with raw performance, soft tip and stiff butt section, the rods line tracking capabilty and smooth casting blank are just amazing I highly recomend this rod.
If it was me, and I had to get one 8 weight for salmon, steelhead and saltwater? I would buy the Sage Xi3, This is my number 1 recommendation for the 8 weight category, I don't own one yet but have fished it many times for steelhead and stripers in the salt. The one thing is this rod has a lightning fast action, one that may be hard for a beginner to get the timing of the rod down, however overall this would be my first choice, but it does wear a pricetag of $725.
FLy-Lines--> Check out the RIO salmon/steelhead line. The Scientific Angler Steelhead Line. These would be good choices for you, they have a heavy weight foward head that will load an 8 weight rod nicely.
Good Luck, hope this helps, drop me a PM if you have any specific questions.