When you're new to the sport of fly-fishing it's easy to get a little overwhelmed. Learning about the casting, fly lines, various flies, and everything else can make sticking with conventional fishing seem way more attractive. Hopefully, you used our Fly-Fishing Basics section to break down some of this stuff into simpler terms. One thing I'd like to briefly touch on is casting, and how I believe distance should be the least of your concerns—at least in the beginning.
Let me first say that when I was learning to fly-fish around the age of 12 I didn't follow this advice at all. Since my parents and friends didn't fly-fish (one friend made fun of me for fly-fishing....he now owns a fly rod...hah!) I can't say for sure if I was even offered this advice in the first place! As a result, my casting practice became a bit mixed up.
I learned how to cast decently enough, then got stuck on constantly striving for long distances when I should have spent more time on shorter, higher-quality casts.
Is distance important? It absolutely can be, and I definitely need to chuck a cast way out there once in a while. I'm not saying to totally ignore it. However, many new fly anglers will experience better success by focusing much of their efforts on developing their accuracy at short to medium ranges rather than worrying about distance so much. Try setting accuracy goals up to 40 or 50 feet and slowly work on getting proficient up to that distance. Once you develop solid technique and can consistently hit (or nearly hit) targets at that range, slowly start building your technique and accuracy at distances past that point.
Keep in mind that learning how to cast accurately is much more challenging than it seems. What may be relatively easy in calm conditions can be a total frustration in anything else. It's crucial to practice casting in different wind directions so you can get a feel for how it affects your casts and how you can adjust. As a bonus, knowing how to accurately cast in different ways such as sidearm or backhanded can pay big dividends, too.
In my experience, accuracy has been greater than distance. Although I still love to practice throwing for sheer distance, I've learned to spend more time maintaining consistent accuracy at more "usable" casting ranges. One can NEVER practice too much, and I like to make it count where it matters most!