Now you're probably guessing that I'm going to defend the high cost of "high-end" fly rods, & to a degree, you're right. Without going into the details, let me just say that quality rod components cost a lot more than quickly & cheaply made ones. The degree of attention to detail in a rod is labor intensive & will also drive up the price. That said, many rod companies try to strike a balance between cost & quality.
Being a custom rod maker, I'm in a unique position where I can focus more on quality than cost - within my client's budget. I'm able to look at many different components that are available & make judgments of them as to what is the best within any price range. This gives us rod makers more freedom when designing a rod with our clients. Essentially, we have more options because unlike a large rod company, we're not locked into buying a million line guides, for example, of a particular style. We are much more nimble than the big companies. Often times we can do this for the same price (or only slightly more) than the large tackle manufacturers. The only trade off on the clients part is that you have to wait a bit longer for your rod to be made - no instant gratification.
I could complain about the low cost, foreign made rods that are flooding the market today & argue about the low wage workers who make them, but that wouldn't change a thing. Those rods aren't going away & why should they? There are many anglers out there who are on such a tight budget that it is one of the few options they have available. That's why I introduced the Prudential Series line of graphite & bamboo rods, to give those anglers some options & still have a custom rod made for them. I'm very proud of those rods & would hold them up to rods that cost twice as much. Those large tackle companies are not able to offer what a rod maker like me can: the highest level of customer service (where we interact as much as you like) & a level of quality second to none.
Some of the folks on that forum were trying to justify the cost of a fly rod based on how much & how often you fish with it. I don't think that should ever come into play when choosing a rod. To me it's not about the amount of time you spend on the water, it's about the quality of that time. A great rod is going to make that time much more enjoyable. I'm not saying that a custom made rod will take you from an average caster to a world champion - but having a great piece of equipment will certainly make the fishing more enjoyable (& yes, help your casting a little, too). It is certainly sound advice to buy the best tackle that your budget will allow. In the end it comes down to quality - both in time spent fishing & in your fly rod. It should always be about the quality.