Yes, the tying of spey, dee, and other fancy flies exceeded the bounds of practical necessity - not just recently, but something like 150 years ago.
A simple fly like a Woolly Worm, Woolly Bugger, Egg-Sucking Leech, or Thor is as likely to catch steelhead as anything else. On the other hand, many fancy flies are also unexcelled as fish-getters. It's just that you don't have to take pains, with expensive, elaborate, difficult-to-tie flies, if you don't want to.
We're always making compromises between practicality and our aesthetic sense, which most people have. Just as we're free to go anywhere in public in our fishing clothes, but usually wouldn't. My steelhead flies range from very elaborate to very simple. When I'm losing flies too frequently, I reach for my "cannon fodder" box.