We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
How much of it is vanity, and how much functionality?
It seems clear that if you are fly-fishing for big fish, you might need a decent drag, etc. I have a cheap Cabela's 4-weight reel for small trout on small streams, and for drag, if ever needed, I can just palm it. It's just a line-holder really.
Most are significant overkill for the job at hand ...or better put, for most of us, the job at hand does not require what we buy. On the other hand - they are crucial for some of the 'big jobs' ....one needs to properly project his needs ....or ....just go with his 'wants' ...what the heck!
Harry Briscoe - Hexagraph
Well-made stuff is expensive. You can get by with cheap sometimes. But if you're going to hook something that can run fast and far you better have a reel that can take the RPMs and not come apart. One without places for your line to snag. A drag which starts smoothly. No edges to cut you or line.
I've had saltwater fish blow up my reel, which is a real pain. I figure I spend the bucks once on something which will last, and be done with it. My new saltwater reel cost more than I've ever spent on a reel, though not in the Billy Pate/Tibor league, and it has been worth it.
I have a rule for buying tools that goes: if you think you're going to use it more than once, buy the best one you can afford.
Quality matters. Even in those rare instances where the expensive tool doesn't outlast, or do the job better than, the cheap tool, the user experience is invariably better with the better tool.
If I want to enjoy spending time doing something, using quality tools while I do it is part of that enjoyment. If catching fish mattered to me, then I'm pretty sure that having good gear would matter, too.