Re: Too much attention to distance?
All I can say is that there is no downside whatsoever to casting well. Casting is such an integral part of fly fishing that it's silly to try and justify mediocrity in casting.
I will bet you that those who can cast good distance have already learned how to catch fish and excelled at the 20-30-40' range long ago.
When fishing for gulpers, or on a pond with rising brookies, I've had friends pray a trout would cruise close enough for them to get a shot and on the pond once we tagged the sippers at their max range it was game over as all they could do is watch. Again, there's no downside to casting well.
PS... though I have a few modern, fast rods I enjoy the heck out of fishing my old Scott G's and IM-6 rods as well as an occasional trip with cane (which I still don't 'get' by the way!)