Re: Fishing small creeks
My 3 wt. for Wisconsin small spring creeks is an 8' 8" and I love the length of it. I do have an 8' 4 wt. if I want a shorter rod. I prefer the long 3 wt. - as Jimmie stated, I like the length to dap over the high grasses as well. It's also nice having that extra length for high sticking.
You also asked about a cheap reel... for a 3 wt. see if you can get your hands on a made in England Orvis BBS II. Great little reel for a 3 wt. The new ones made overseas don't seem as durable. YMMV.