Ahh yes, the cheap vs. expsneive gear debate - never ending.
I've been fly fishing for about 20 years. I started out on a wet noodle of a south bend fly rod and even though I have yet to break the $200 dollar mark, there is an appreciable difference.
The best way to look at it if you are going to go out and buy gear is to buy the nicest ROD you can afford. Don't put your money into a reel more than the rod, as it really only holds the line in most fly fishing applications. If you buy a 30 dollar combo to get a feel for it, there is nothing wrong with that. No sense in putting good moeny towards somethign you aren't sure of.
The best way to figure all this out though is to go to a fly shop or a place that will allow you to throw some line in the back parking lot with a couple rods. If you can do that you might even get some casting instruction out of the deal. THere are a lot of good books out there by Lefty Kreh, Joan Wulff and others, but the one I think deconstructs it well for most beginners is "Fly Casting" By Jim Schollmeyer and Frank Amato.
The best thing is to start simple though - you can make fly fishing as cheap or as expensive of a sport as you desire. A rod, line and reel are all you need - throw in a dozen flies to start (caddis/adams, bead headed nymphs, wooly bugger) and you're set for almost anything that will take a hook in fresh water).
One thing that helps with rhythm and correct pressure in loading the fly rod is to take it apart (this method assumes a 2 piece rod but many are 3 and 4 piece now) - using the end with the grip on it, tie about 6-10 feet of brightly colored yarn to the tip of the half rod and practice straightening that out. As you gain more confidence and ability, add sections of the rod till you are at full length - then substitute your regular line for the yarn. If you are using your fishing line, practice on the water or on grass (avoiding hard surfaces such as concrete).
If you have further questions, drop a line, or check out www.flyanglersonline.com
- tons of good articles there on flyfishing.
I am moving this to the fishing forum as an FYI.