Thanks for the input.
I've become partial to the "second and third tier" manufactures as well. While I have a couple of very expensive fly rods I bought when I was younger, these days I can't justify buying them especially since there are so many good rods available for $200 or less. The thing is that there are lots of rod makers in this catagory now: Redington, St. Croix, TFO, Albright, Damon, LL Bean, Cabelas, Bass Pro, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the premier brands like G Loomis, Sage, Orvis, etc. that have lowered prices on it's "entry level" rods to compete in this market.
So many options! Competition is good, of course, but sometimes it's hard to know what to buy. It would take quite a while to cast all these rods. That's why these forums are so great to share exeriences and opinions!