Honestly, I stopped measuring my casts once I was able to accurately cast 45 feet. I bought a Diamondback Americana 8wt about 5 years ago, and did measure a 65 foot cast, but that's because my front yard's lawn was 65 feet long. I can tell you that I often have very few turns of fly line left on the reel when casting across a stream. My wife and I were fishing one of the local streams this past weekend, and I blasted an X Caddis across the stream's width several times, usually hooking a 3-4" bluegill! Getting in all that line with a dink on the hook became annoying, so....
I agree with Jackster's comments about mechanics and bad habits. It seems I'm always using my wife as an example when discussing casting, but she makes so many unnecessary movements during a cast. The fly gets to where it needs to be, but it could be done with so much less effort. She doesn't have much time to practice casting, and I have to deal with this while were fishing. So what's the problem if the fly lands where needed? Too many false casts over a fish's head: spook them; increase the chance of throwing a tailing loop on at least one of the false casts (if you figure the odds of a bad cast are 1 in 10, you wouldn't be surprised that she manages to tangle a leader once every 20 minutes); it's tiring; it just doesn't look good, etc.
I had a shoulder injury in 2002, and I've worked to make my casting as efficient as possible. If I can land on target with one false cast rather than two, I'm casting 50% less each year, but not fishing 50% less. In fact, I can fish much longer with more efficient casting.
I have found that the ability to cast a great distance is occasionally useful in regular fishing, especially on lakes. When it really becomes useful is when you are casting into a headwind. The ability to make long cast is needed to just make an average 40 foot cast when the wind is blowing against your cast.
Wind really tests casting ability. Fishing during a windy day in Montana or Wyoming will change your mind in a hurry about the need to improve your casting.
Well lets call it for what it is, as human beings we like to test ourselves. A well placed fly is VERY important but who doesn't like to see line shooting through their guides?
The clouds will part and the sun will shine when you realize that long casts shouldn't hurt your shoulder or wear a groove in your grip. When the mechanics of your cast are on point a long distance cast will seem almost effortless.
My point here is that the MOST important part of any cast is excellent technique. The reason why everyone is telling you to practice your accuracy is because if you can consistantly throw an accurate 45ft cast your a double haul away from adding 40ft to that cast.
Practice does NOT make perfect
PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.
When I started out, it was all about distance for me; nothing was ever long enough. But, I wasn't hooking many fish. Now I cast shorter distances; usually under 60' and I get a lot more fish on the line. But, many people still tell me to cast shorter distances, and they're almost always right.
My wife was firing off some long casts yesterday, but not catching fish. I told her that they were holding 20 feet away, and to take 25 feet off her cast. Fish On! Having said that, I decided to see how far off I could hook bluegill this evening. Pretty far off, but pulling in all that line become boring.
I like "Perfect Practice Makes Perfect"! I've noted on this forum before that practicing bad technique is a disaster, whether it's fly fishing or a musical instrument (etc).
45 feet is a looooooong cast for me i have fished these small rivers here in the south west all my life so i never had to cast long distances 25 to 30 feet is normal. I have fished other places on bigger rivers but i never tried to cast more than 45 or 50 feet.
If i do try for more distance than that my casting stroke gos to hell. and im poping off flys or tieing my tippett in knots.
I sure do like to watch those videos where they are spey casting and casting half way across the county tho.Its sure pretty to watch.
I echo all the advice about the importance of good mechanics and accuracy well over distance. I do not fish still-waters very often so I cannot speak from experience, but imagine that accuracy is less important with cruising fish on a lake and maybe being able to haul off 80' of line is fun to do.
But river fishing, if you can't hit your spot at 40' away, flailing 70' across the stream just to get your fly "over there" and in the general vicinity of a rising fish is a foolish waste of time.
I've never actually measure how far I can cast, I honestly have no idea and don't really care about putting numbers on the distance.
Last thought on good casting rhythm and mechanics: once you have that down you can learn to add a haul or double haul, and just like that you've added quite a bit of distance.
I have done 130 feet with a 8wt with shooting head setup. and using a 15 foot 2 hander hit the 200 foot mark with a shooting setup on grass. those are the extreme. I can and do cast up to 100 foot all the time. Have put a 6'6" 2 wt out to 80 foot too. most is for my own desire to do so.
I've only been flyfishing for approx. 3 years, and only this year figured out how to double haul, so my experiences are a bit limited. That said, I think everyone at some time wants to push the limits, and in flyfishing part of that is finding out how far you can cast. Last year I was single hauling on the forward stroke with some efficacy toward the end of the year, and occasionally could throw a 60-70 ft cast standing on the bank. From a tube I maxed out around 50-60 ft.
This year while visiting family in MT, I managed a few double-hauled casts from the bank just over 80 ft (no wind). Of course, the fish I was trying to cast to were a little over 100 ft away. A few weeks later, I threw a few double-haulers from my tube that went 70 ft (no wind).
However, when actually fishing, either from the bank/wading or a tube, I rarely find it necessary to cast more than 40 ft. And for myself, 30-45 ft is my sweet spot, where I find I am most accurate.
I agree with what other have already said, the biggest benefit to learning to cast longer distances is probably being able to defeat the wind. If you can cast 70 ft with little to no wind, then you can probably cast 35-45 ft in a 15 knt quartering headwind. Which just means that you can keep on fishing when others with less abillity would have to pack it in.
"Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn." ~Chuck Clark