Re: Some tactical questions (trout fishing)
1.) Loop to loop is just fine - go with a shorter leader. On a small, bushy stream, you don't need a long leader. My go-to small stream rods are a 6'6" 4 weight, a 7' 2 weight, and a 7'6" 3 weight, and a very short (5' 2" 4/5 weight). I rarely go with a leader longer than 7'6" including tippet in such scenarios.
For short, brushy streams a 6' leader, including tippet - works great. Furled or braided leader butts work especially well here - a 3' furled or braided butt, with a few steps of tippet size will turn over bushy flies or bead head nymphs.
2.) If I'm not fishing hopper & dropper setups and I want to indi-nymph fish, I set my indicator just a few inches deeper than the deepest part of the stream section I'm fishing. I will go with the quickest sinking flies I can get away with, or pinch shot onto the leader a few inches above the fly to get them down where I need them. Typically, small streams don't run extremely deep. The tiny creeks I fish average a foot deep in the shallows, and the deepest runs go maybe 3-4 feet during summer/fall flows. I just fished my favorite small creek on my favorite stretch today - and the deepest water I encountered was about three and a half feet deep. On these small streams I honestly rarely indicator nymph - I stick with short, tight line presentations and do quite well. You'll feel the strikes on a tight-line drift much sooner than you'd see them translated to an indicator, even with a short leader.
3. As I mentioned earlier - my go-to small stream rods range from 5'2" to 7'6" - it depends on the creek I'm fishing as to what rod I take. I tend to favor my 7' 2 weight and 7'6" for most small streams I fish - but they aren't brush choked either, and I rarely have to crawl on hands and knees to get into casting position. For those brushy - almost impossible to fish streams - I bust out the 5'2" rod. I can nymph with it, cast dries, or even chuck streamers - but that's because it's heavy for it's size. It's not one to bust out a 40' cast - but for the 5-30 foot casts needed on little streams, it works great.
If I were going to buy an off the shelf rod for small streams - Cabela's TQR rods would be the ticket. TQR means Tight Quarters Rods - they're short rods ranging from 2-5 weight. Good casters, light weight. They're a bit stiff for as light as they are - if I was fishing the 5' 2 weight, I'd line it with a 3 weight WF taper line to load it up more easily. Maybe even go up to a #4 if I was sure I was only making 15 foot casts all day. They have a 6' 5 weight which would be a great all-rounder for small streams where you might want to fish larger flies, or you'll be fishing big-ish streamers. I know there are some little streams out there that host fish measured in lbs, not just inches.
Other rods I'd consider - the TFO Signature II 6' 2 weight (I had a TFO Signature 6' 2 weight that I dearly miss. GREAT casting rod with a DT2 line. Made an 8 inch trout feel like a monster) , Sage Approach 7' 3 weight, or if you're budget conscious - the Eagle Claw Featherlite 6'6" 3/4 weight or Cabela's Three Forks 7'6" 3 weight.
I built my 5'2" rod from two top sections from what was going to be a 10' 3 weight. I purchased that blank off e-bay. As a full length rod - it was waaaaaaaay too heavy/stiff for a 3 weight. It's Common Cents rating put it as an 8 weight. I discarded the bottom sections and built the short rod, and it casts a 5 weight line best in close, and a #4 line for longer casts.
since I was 3. Have you hugged a fish today?