Conner Alan and Walt Horton have a simple but powerful mission to get kids outdoors. The two Texas natives have fond memories of growing up outside, spending time in quiet corners of Texas hill country, nestled between lakes, trees, and wildlife. “My favorite place in Texas is the Llano river just above the town of Llano around Castell. I love it so much because I’ve spent a lot of time there fly fishing and camping,” says Horton. “I truly believe it is one of the hidden gems of Texas.” Alan has a similar story. “My family has a ranch out near Graford south of Possum Kingdom dam on the untouched part of the Brazos River,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite places...the people are nice, life is slow, and the sunsets are gorgeous.”
In those times, it seemed every kid was eager to head out the swinging screen door, eager to run and play under the vast Texas sky. Alan and Horton want to bring the new generation the same bond with the natural world that they had growing up. That was the reason the two friends started Blue Valley Fly Fishing, a week-long day camp experience that teaches children the fundamentals of fly fishing and the greatness of being outside.
“The best part about running these fly fishing camps is the kids that we get to mentor,” says Walt. Our slogan is ‘getting kids outdoors.’ Conner and I both grew up where our fathers weren’t fishermen and we taught ourselves to fly fish through Youtube tutorials, so for me, it’s the ability to give something that has had a profound impact on our lives back to the younger generation. They’re now both master fisherman with 6 years of training experience to boot.
The friends take pride in seeing the impact their camp has on the campers long after they leave the week-long experience. “The kids are truly the best part of what we do,” says Conner. “We feel we have accomplished our mission when we see kids fall in love with the sport and can tell that they are going to make this their own and continue with it.”
When they aren’t teaching kids the joys of fly fishing, Conner and Walt spend much of their time enjoying all that Texas’ wild outdoors has to offer.If not outside, you might find them catching a country music show like the Turnpike Troubadours concert they remembered from a couple of years ago. “They are probably our favorite Texas country band of all time,” says Conner. “We had planned to go to this concert in New Braunfels at the White Water Amphitheater and we decided that we wanted to tube before. So we drove down and tubed the Guadalupe on that hot summer day with all our buddies for about four hours.”
“When we were tubing on the Guadalupe we decided to go full-Texan with our antics. Cooler in the middle, cowboy hats on, no shirts, no shoes just soaking in the sun,” Walt adds. “Getting out of the river we stopped off at a gas station to take a little Texas ‘sink shower’ before the concert and changed into our cowboy clothes.” On nights like these, the friends don Texas Standard’s Sports Shirts for a comfortable, polished look and feel.
“Being a Texan for me is being a part of the Texas family and being a part of the Texas story,” Walt says. I think it’s such a big honor to be from a state where so many American heroes were made.” Horton has a similar story to tell. “ Being a Texan means everything to me. My family has a lot of history here...Being a Texan to me is all about family and taking care of those around me,” he mentions. “I always carry a sense of Texan pride with me wherever I am in the world.”
Through the purposeful lives they lead in Blue Valley Fly Fishing and beyond, the duo tries to spread values they have learned from growing up in this great state. “Texas stands as one of the most hospitable places in the country,” says Conner. “I believe that is a testament to how much we care about each other. Every Texan is a friend to the other and that is something we all as Texans take pride in.”
For Walt and Conner, Blue Valley Fishing Camp is one special way to take care of the people and state that give so much to them. Fly fishing under the Texas sun brought joy to their lives that they’re excited to pass on. “We hope that the kids we teach fall in love with the art and that in turn, it can have the same kind of impact it had on us when we were growing up.”