What kind of gel are you using? If you use one that doesn't have silicones in it, you should have no trouble rinsing it out with just water. Off the top of my head, I know that the LA Looks Sports gel, Herbal Essences Totally Twisted gel, and Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee don't have silicones, so you could try one of those (LALSG is super cheap; BRHG is on the pricey side but a lot of people, including me, love it). I put curl enhancers and gel in my hair every day, and I have no trouble rinsing any of it out the next day with just water.
As for the noodley hair, it could be the gel or it could be your application technique. How are you putting it in?
Sulfate/non-water-soluble silicone free since 8/16/10
Med-coarse, normal porosity, low elasticity
Dye-free since 11/2010