Take a look at any of Sasha's threads. I think a 1wt would be the heaviest
rod he uses. The lightest fly rod I've fished is a 7' 4wt (bamboo), but used
to do lots of ultralight spincasting. They came in plenty quick with UL spinning
gear, but I used a short rod (5 feet usually).
I've never fished anything below a 3 wt. and I fish small freestone creeks for native Brookies most of the time (6-10" fish). A light 7'6" 3 wt. gets the job done for me. To me, "playing" a small fish isn't really what fishing is all about. And, as you said, it may be better to land a small fish as quickly as possible, to avoid damaging it in the angling.
As an example, I took a Sage ZXL 7'6" 3 wt. 4 piece rod to Japan about 18 months ago and fished with NAFFF member Neversink for some very tiny trout (Yamame and Iwana) in the small, steep gradient mountain streams just west of Nikko. It was, for me, the ideal stick for those environs and when I ever hooked into an 18" rainbow at the exit of one of the big dams (the streams in those mountains are so steep that they have to dam them every 1/2 mile or so in order to control flood damage) I was glad that I was fishing a rod with some backbone to it.
Certainly your choice and if a 2 wt., 1 wt, or 0-000 wt. rod is going to make your fishing more enjoyable, then I'd say go out and purchase one; or a least find one to try out. For me, a glass 3 wt., like Diamondback's Diamondglass model gives me all the feel and angling thrill that I need for hooking and landing small trout.
in short a 1wt rod is, if youve looked around, short. most will be in that 7ft range. that short rod and very light weight most of the time ends up with next to NO castability. oh you can get some ok distance out of it, but heavier rods give you more. if your looking at just floating a fly down with little to no casting a 1wt would be great and fun. but if your like me and need to get the fly out a ways its hard to do. i should also say that i mainly use it for pan fish and not trout. when i was in an area with trout all around i didnt have it. my place in the world now has very few trout. so small pan fish are all over so i looked into a 1wt. my 5wt was over kill on it. i still like the rod and use it all the time, but i just dont get the castability out of it that i do my 5wt or the distance of my 9wt and the big flies i use with it.
I'd say cast one for a bit and see if you like the feel. As was mentioned before, if you haven't cast a rod like that before-- you'll learn quickly that 60 foot casts are nearly an impossibility (at least for me)-- I can get 30'( if even that...) max out of mine.
I just picked up a 3 wt. on the cheap and from casting in my yard, I have a feeling the 1 wt. will not see much use from here on out.... Very specialized tool....
also, My 1 wt. was a panfish stick--- and the occasional 10" Lm bass....
I have a dozen fly rods, but my 1wt is by far the most fun to fish with.
I have a Orvis Superfine 1wt that is 7'6" long and the 4pc only weighs 1.5oz!! The rod is a beautiful Olive color and although it's high modulus graphite, it flexes all the way like bamboo does.
I use a 2.7oz Sage 3100 ultralight large arbor reel with Gen 3 WF1F line. When you go UL, you will never go back! I must say that I love catchin' small fish in small streams though. When I target carp, I use my 8wt.
My 2 weight is collecting dust, it's just too limiting. It took a while for me to realize the limitations of real light lined fly rods but, as mojo said, any wind is a problem. I find that throwing any kind of meat, lead or indicators with them is just too much of a challenge and no joy at all.
Since rod manufacturers seem to create marketing crazes and the last big one was too-lightweight rods, I waited patiently for them to get back to building short rods with some muscle to them. The wait is over, I built my own... a 6', 5 weight for tossing junk and throwing tight loops in rhodo infested jungles.
Now if only the weather would cooperate and let me use the danged thing!