Get read for alot of advice...because I am going to serve a sh*tload of it up!!
First of all the rod...
If he is set on Sage, I would look at the RPLXi 9' #9 3 piece (they also make this model in a 5 piece which rarely maintains its regulation 5 piece format). Another rod to consider too if you he is using this rod off the beaches (and fishing streams), is the #9 9'6" RPLXi (3 piece)....the added 6" really allows you extra distance while fishing the beaches and allows you extra line control and extra distance as well in the rivers.
In that price range, Sage also makes the XP in a #9 in a 9', 9'6" and 10'er...if he is going to be fishing alot of heavy sinktips and larger flies the beefed up RPLXi will be more of a pleasure to cast all day (plus it is a tad slower and absorbs the energy a heavy sink-tip can produce)....plus the beefed up butt tends to aide one in fighting chum and kings.
On to reels...is he stuck on an Abel??? If not, I would lean towards the Loop Evotec for a couple differnt reasons!
To preface what I am about to say, the Abel is not a bad reel at all, in fact the Abel has proven that is litteraly indestructible and I own a couple myself (Super 12 & Big Game 4.5N).
The Loop offers up the same reliability that the Abel does (have many customers who have put the Loops through the same abuse as Abels and not a single hiccup, let alone a malfunction yet!)
My favorite charcteristic of the Loop (that the Abel does not offer) is a 100% sealed drag!!...the Abel's cork drag (while smooth and proven) will begin to become sticky after say a week of heavy saltwater use in a harsh enviroment where as the Loop's drag requires no rinsing, no cleaning etc. etc.
That may not be a big deal around here but say your buddy wants to take his real on a trip to a harsh enviroment such as Christmas Is. After a week down there of little maintance the Abel's drag begins to stick and skitter...the Loop's does not.
I also like the Loops because they are a true large arbor which aides in line pickup plus they are very very light!!
If you want to take a look at the Loop's....look at the Evotec 8/12 LW...it runs right around $550 and its spools are much cheaper then the comparable Abel.
If you believe he is stuck on the Abel, then look at the Super 10 which runs around $600.
Also take a look at the Tibor Riptide...love the Tibor's outgoing click where as the Abel is silent on the out or available in a cheesy clicker that is now stock on all 2003 production reels.
Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to be talked into purchasing a Ross Canyon for your freind...they are a wonderful reel for the money for Spey rods, light saltwater and stream fishing but their drags are rat traps and after heavy use in saltwater(even with maintence), they require replacing by Ross as salt lodges itself inbetween the drag pads.
Onto lines....first of all, you purchase a $600 rod and $600 reel, do not leave that shop without being offered a flyline on the house...it is the very least they can do.
If he is fishing mainly from a boat, then the Rio 26' Striper Versi-tip would be the route to go and if he is fishing mainly from the beaches, the Rio 15' Stiper Veri-tip would be my line of choice.
Any other questions???