DrDan: I think you've already tried a great rod for smallies, that 9' 7wt fast-action Scott. I think that most anything smaller will have trouble throwing the big stuff, like pencil poppers and weighted Zonkers. If that is too taxing a rod for you, then I say just start dropping down size until you find something that is comfortable enough. I've got a Temple Fork Lefty Kreh Professional 9' 6wt rod that I love, for only $140, and with medium-fast action. It'll work pretty good for smallie-type flies, but perhaps not the biggest ones. And it is a pretty forgiving rod as well. Many flyfishermen feel the need to spend more than that, so I'm sure you could also find a good rod for more money. Also, I would consider going shorter, like maybe 8' or 8.5'. To me, the length of a rod has a lot to do with how taxing it is to use.
Also, I would caution against getting too slow a rod. You'll outgrow it too fast. And in my opinion, you really need that fastish action to cast many smallie flies. I say go for something medium-fast, which you'll be able to keep forever, even if only as a backup rod. I think that slow rods often cause beginners to spend a lot more time that was necessary to develop a good rhythm. Some (old) experts claim to be good with slow rods, but I don't know those people.
I think the only advantage of a slow rod is comfort when casting. I read of other advantages to slow rods in fishing catalogs, but I really don't believe it.
If you are going to fish small creeks for small fish, then you may be fine sticking with your 5-wt.
, would you mind sharing where on earth you caught that monster, and what you were using? I'm not asking for your favorite fishing hole, but the river name would be nice...
It's only fair after making us all salivate with that picture.