Save your money for gas and coffee
I think the most fortunate thing about native brook trout fishing is the solitude of it all. I always hated going to popular trout steams and having snobby fisherman criticize my gear. “That won’t work” or “The technology of that rod is at least three generations old” Hah! Someone should tell the trout that! Almost any gear will work. It is all about stealth and presentation.
Here are some very general recommendations.
As you have may have guessed, I have several fanatical friends who also pursue native brookies. We all use slightly different setups but there are a few common specs that bear mentioning. Our rod lengths vary from 5'6" to 9' and weights vary from 2 to 5 weight. Due to the thick brush of brook trout habitat, a shorter rod is much easier to maneuver. The length you choose is determined by the type of streams you are fishing. I am currently using rods from 7' to 9' in weights from 3 to 5. The shorter rod requires a heavier line to get some extra casting weight. It can be difficult to get a rod to load when casting short distances in cramped quarters so "lining up" by increasing the line weight one step can really make a difference.
As far as action goes, this is a personal preference. I use a fast to medium-fast action because I like the accuracy of it. Many of my fishing companions prefer much slower rods. Here is the trade off, the slower rods are very pleasant to cast, they protect the light tippet very well, and they make a small trout seem like a tuna. The lack of “backbone” make it hard to dislodge a fly stuck on brush (which happens A LOT!). Also hook sets can be difficult and casting isn't as pinpoint. Ah, but they feel good! If you are just getting started you can't go wrong with a slow to medium action rod.
Notice I haven't said anything about space age materials here. Since you won't be heaving a heavy fly line 40 feet for 12 hours at a pop the material is more of a function of feel and flex. Some of the nicest brook trout rods I have used are fiberglass although my current favorite is a homemade graphite 2oz. gem. Bottom line, you don't need a $500 dollar Sage here. If you are going to spend some coin on a premium rod, make sure it has a good warranty. Brook trout streams are rough on equipment.
A reel is really only a line holder when brook trout fishing. Choose a simple, well built design that complements your rod. I used cheap click reels for years and other than the tippet and sand getting stuck in the gearing due to poor manufacturing tolerances, they worked fine. I currently use a couple of fairly nice reels with smooth disc drags that protect my tippet when I do tie into a lunker. The price range for a decent reel is $35 to $130 depending on the quality, features and name. I suggest you stay away from the stamped metal reels as they don't last more than a few seasons of hard fishing, but they will work. Check out the gear review section, we always have a reel or two listed there.
When brook trout fishing you will usually be casting 30 feet or less. A high tech, custom tapered line is completely unnecessarry. I prefer a Double Taper line. This allows me to simply reverse the line when it wears out. I like fly lines with loops already built into the ends, but it isn't a deal breaker as loop connectors and nail knots can be used (I use Gray's Loops). Backing is used only to fill the reel and is not necessary unless you plan on using the reel and line for other species. I think only a trip to Canada would produce a brook trout capable of getting into your backing. I top my line off with a 7' to 8' tapered leader and a couple of feet of 4lb tippet. I use a 4lb tippet rather than a 2lb to give me a little extra ooomph when pulling my flies out of the bushes. 4lb is actually serious overkill for small brookies but it allows me to keep my fly on the water more. When the warm weather hits and the trout get skittish you may need to increase your tippet length and get a bit more stealthy.
You can really get crazy here (And I do!) but you really only need a few basic accessories. Hemostats on a zinger are an absolute must. The make it very easy to release the trout with minimal handling and they work much better on small fish than catch and release hook removers. Floatant will also help keep your flies floating high. There are alot of brands but you can't go wrong with simple silicone pastes. I like the thicker stuff like Gink or the Orvis brand. And finally nippers will save you a few trips to the dentist (if you actually use them).
It isn't the fashion show that you will see on some “blue-ribbon” streams. It is more about functionality. Have we mentioned “Stealth” lately? Bright, light clothing is out! Dark, drab and dreary. Many of my friends wear camo when they fish. Although camo is a good choice, I prefer simple Sage and Brown/Khaki outfits with no patterns at all. The fish see movement; less detail, less movement. Anything dark will work well. Nothing spooks a brookie like a big, bright white, tee shirt!
The footwear department is another issue. Waders are only needed in the coldest seasons of the year, I prefer hip waders or pants/waist waders as chest waders are typically overkill for the smaller mountain streams. Another approach is wet wading which is my prefered method most of the year. Wading sandals or other outdoor sandals work really well when the weather is warm enough. Just avoid those with velcro closures. The velcro wears quickly in stream conditions. Old sneakers or aquatic shoes work well too but once they get gravel or sand inside they can tear your feet to ribbons. If you already have a pair of wading shoes you really like, neoprene socks let you wear them even through the heat of summer and some even have gravel guards built into them. Beware! if you wet wade in the woods you will probably get poison ivy and numerous insect bits. I take Claratin when I am out in the woods to keep the itching and reactions at bay.
Although not really clothing, a good pair of polarized sunglasses is a real help in cutting the glare and seeing the fish. One problem however; the deep woods are dark and sunglasses make it very difficult to see anything, look for amber or yellow polarized glasses if you can find them. And be sure to get a lanyard. They will fall off!