The result? I went with an outfit. The 9/10wt 9' 4 piece Wild Water Fly Fishing Saltwater Starter Package.
Who is Wild Water Fly Fishing? It is a relatively new company (founded in 2006) founded by Eric Dodds to fill a spot in the market by providing better quality rods for less money. Besides selling to individual buyers, it seems like the company is hoping to fill fly fishing guides' rod tubes with a quality rod for the .... unpredictable fisherman :)
So how did this baby hold up on it's first outing? In short, outstanding. The rod blank is listed as "slow," which left me expecting something comparable to my 5wt or the fiberglass. Maybe that was me being naive, but this rod was much faster than I expected. The weight distribution/balance felt very natural, and, when I was able to pull off a decent double haul, the line shot like butter. Smooth.
The cork handle was durable. The reel is sturdy and easy to control. After getting used to the clicking of a pflueger, it is odd to have something so silent. But I liked it. I even dropped the reel on the cement halfway through the day without any consequences (besides just being frustrated with my own foolishness). The rod even held up to a feisty speckled trout that should make its appearance in the next few days...
When I set out to buy a new rod, I wasn't necessarily looking for an outfit, but I was looking for a couple things in particular. I wanted a heavier weight rod. I wanted to spend less than $150 for a rod and reel. I wanted a 4 piece to make travel easier. I wanted a good warranty. I got all of those things with the Wild Water Rod. It has a lifetime warranty. No questions asked. The only stipulations are that it isn't transferrable between buyers. You have to register the rod, and it is $35 to get a new rod when you send it in. Maybe not as good as some warranties but much better than others. $35 for a brand new rod is pretty darn sweet. Of course, I hope to avoid it all together :)
Was I hesitant buying a brand that wasn't as well established as say, Redington, for example? Well, yes, a bit. But from the reviews I read, I felt safe with my decision. So far, I have no regrets, and I don't anticipate any in the future.
Here are the specs from the website: