Re: Upgrade time... Just in time for my birthday!
Fortunately/unfortunately, there are a lot of high quality/performance rods in your price range, especially if you entertain used rods/clearance rods.
Also, nymphing and dries are kind of opposite ends of the scale, in terms of what you're asking the rod to do well. That said, there are rods that can do both and most everything in between. In my un-expert opinion, you need to first decide what style of fishing you either will do more often, or enjoy more, whichever is more important to you.
For instance, in my own case, I fish a lot of still water, from a tube, but lately have gotten more time in on creeks and moving water in general. However, regardless of the type of water I fish, I like fishing dries (terrestrials mostly) more than anything else. I will fish nymph rigs, indicator rigs, streamers, sinking lines, etc., when the situation calls for it, but when I dream about fishing, I dream about fishing dries.
So, when I came to the decision of upgrading my 5 wt., I decided I wanted a rod that leaned more towards dry fly fishing. Even though my 5 wt. does more duty as a nymph/streamer rig caster. Eventually, I ended up choosing a rod that could cast an indicator rig or even a 150 grain sink tip, but its 'wheelhouse' is in making delicate casts with dries. in other words, I chose a rod based on what I like, not what I usually do.
So far, it's worked out just fine. I have to make some concessions when casting heavy rigs or sink tips, but it does a decent job with that kind of fishing. But man, does it ever get fun when I tie on a hopper and get bit by a big brown.
As for actual rods, a good fishing buddy of mine thinks his 5 wt. Sage One is the cat's meow for either nymph rigs or medium size dries. G. Loomis GLX series rods I think are right around your price range, and St. Croix Legend Elites are around $450 I think. From personal experience, my Winston GVX ($500? retail) can nymph rig and indicator rig, but it is a bit soft for that sort of thing. Toss medium to small dries 45 ft. and in, and it comes alive. Of course, there are many, many other very good rods that will fit your budget.
To narrow your search, I'd decide what I really want that rod to be great at first.
P.S. Congrats, and happy birthday.
"Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn." ~Chuck Clark
Last edited by rangerrich99; 07-08-2013 at 10:15 PM.