Welcome to a life long pursuit and passion.
With 500 bucks you can get into some really NICE outfits. IMHO, ... you don't even need to spend that much.
Some of the good stuff is way less than that for a full setup, rod, reel and line. Remember, ... ya need to keep some $$ to be able to actually go fishing (what with gas prices 'n all).
Not just because they're a sponsor here, ... but the TFO stuff is nice:
As for line weights and rod lenghts, I prefer to let some of the other members here pitch in for recommendations.
Choosing a rod is a really personal thing. Do you prefer a "faster" action rod or are you a nice and relaxed caster. Do you plan on casting and fishing BIG streamers, bomb the banks from a drift boat or "lob" big weighted nymphs ?
Or, ... do you prefer smaller flies, dries and classic wets ?
Quality stuff is more and more easy to find. You make the choice if you want 100% Made In The USA or if you will buy import stuff. (all good quality, .. just a consumer choice).
2 piece or multiple pieces ... IMHO, most casters can't really feel the difference in multi piece rods (over 2 pc), ... depends on travel plans etc.
Anyway, ... (sad to say
), ... it won' be your last rod.