Let me start off by saying I've been fly fishing for several (5+?) years now.
I fish probably 250-300 days a year, so I do a good bit of casting. I can get a fair amount of line out on a cast (in some cases I've had to cast about 70-80 feet), but usually casts in the 30-50 foot range do the job where I fish.
I've owned several low/mid priced rods, and for the most part with graphite I find myself overlining one line size. Glass & cane I usually go with the rated line size, or even underline one size.
To give some indication of my rod/line choices I'll list several combos I use most
of the time.
Ross 8'6" 3wt Essence FS - wf4f line
Ross 7'11" 6wt FlyStik - dt6f
Beck (custom) split cane 8'6" 6wt - wf6f
Lamiglas (custom) 6'6" 3wt - wf3f (could use wf2f line if I had it)
Riverbeast Shadowcaster 8'6" 5wt - wf5f (wf4f might be better)
Grey's GRXi+ 6'6" 5wt - wf6f
Echo Solo 8'6" 4wt - wf5f
Scientific Anglers 8'6" 5/6wt - wf5f
Eagle Claw 6'6" featherlite 4/5 - wf4f
Eagle Claw 7' featherlite 5/6 - wf5f
Sage Graphite II 9'6" 8wt - wf8f
others I liked, but don't currently own are:
Sage Vantage 7' 3wt - wf4f
StCroix RioSanto 9' 6wt - wf7f
Redington Crosswater 9' 5wt - wf5f
Sage Launch 7'6" 3wt - wf4f
As you can see, most slow action rods are fine for me as-rated (or even underlined), but most graphite end up overlined to suit my casting stroke and conditions I face. On those days where I need to get line distance I can go with the rated line and speed up my stroke, but usually I go up one line weight. To be honest the cheap Eagle Claw rods are probably the best "fit" to my casting stroke, but they are too short in a lot of the situations I find myself in (high banks behind me and the fly hits the ground on the backcast before I get enough line out).
I guess my question is:
I want to buy a decent 5wt rod in the 8'6" - 9' range.
What rod(s) do you think would perform with a wf5f line for me?
I'm thinking a med or med/slow mid flex rod is what I need (want), but most rods are advertised as med/fast (to appeal to the market IMO).
I'd like to stay in the $200. - $300. range, and a 3 or 4 pc rod is my preference. Are there any decent quality rods (good fit, cork, and guides) in that price range (or cheaper)? And which ones should I shop for?
BTW - I live in a rural area with no fly shops to try rods out before I buy.