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Gallos de Leon

I lived in Leon in Northern Spain for a number of years and go back to enjoy the fishing as often as I can!

Tomas is one of the few remaining breeders of the genuine Gallos de Leon. Sleeping at the foot of the garden in La Candana is truly an experience, the sound of hundreds of gallos competing at dawn outside your window is awesome! Ear plugs are supplied on the bedside tables for those who wish to sleep through it, but as a short term visitor I love the sound of this chorus, even though it usually starts well before dawn!

Mike Barrio (left) and Tomas Gil (right)
A few of Tomas's gallos at the River Curueño end of his yard ..... it must be so tempting to hop over the fence and go for a cast.

Gallos de Leon fly tying feathers are more commonly known as 'Coq de Leon' outwith Spain. Gallos de Leon are reared in the Curueño Valley, a very small area of the province of Leon. The River Curueño, a great trout river, runs through the valley, where the villages of La Candana de Curueño and La Vecilla are the recognised home of these rare birds. The feathers of the 'gallos' (cockerels / roosters) have been famous for their fly tying qualities for centuries and can be found in the earliest of fly fishing books.

What makes the true 'Gallos de Leon' feathers so special? It has to be their exceptionally long stiff barbs that glisten and quiver with life. The sheen and shimmer of these feathers add a very special quality to your flies at the vice and a magical semi-translucency in the water. Just move them about under a light and you'll see what I mean!

The range of colours you can see in the feathers of both the single and speckled varieties is exceptional and their shimmering reflective properties make it almost impossible to do them justice in a photograph.

It is well known that when the gallos are reared outwith the Curueño Valley their feathers rapidly lose quality and sheen. Genuine feathers from birds reared in the Curueño Valley will always have the official seal of the 'Asociacion de Criadores del Gallo de Leon' (The Gallo de Leon Breeders Association) as the breeders are extremely proud of their birds. If the seal is not there, the feathers will not have come from the valley.

Gallos de Leon Fly Tying Feathers - Pardo
Gallos de Leon Fly Tying Feathers - Indio

There are two breeds of Gallos de Leon:

Pardo - The breed known for their speckled feathers - The principal types of Pardo are Corzuno, Corzuno Rojizo, Corzuno Oscuro, Corzuno Claro, Flor de Escoba, Aconchado, Sarrioso, Pardo Rubion and Langareto.

Indio - The breed known for their 'shiny steel' non speckled feathers - The principal types of Indio are Indio Acerado, Acerado Claro, Acerado Oscuro, Plomizo, Plateado, Sarnosa, Rubion, Cristal, Avellanado, Palometa, Negrisco and Amarillo. Some of these types are very rare nowadays and it is well known in Spain that the finest quality Indio feathers can be found in the Candana de Curueño.

Being a natural product, no two feathers or 'mazos' (bunches of a dozen feathers) are the same of course and you will invariably find variations in colour and speckles within each type.

There are four ways of describing the speckled nature of Pardo feathers:

Corzuno - finer/smaller speckles.

Pardo - normal/medium speckles.

Aconchado - stronger/thicker speckles.

Langareto - even stronger/thicker speckles with the distinct 'Langareto' pattern.

Gallo de Leon Pardo
Gallo de Leon Indio

The fibres from these feathers are most commonly used in UK fly tying circles for attractive tails on nymphs and dries.

But Gallos de Leon feathers are used much more extensively in Spanish fly tying - in tails, as a winging material and in their traditional wet fly hackles. Instead of winding a hackle, a bunch of fibres are tied in front of the thorax, which splays them out in a wet fly manner.

Traditional Spanish 'Ahogada' (wet fly) by Carlos Javier Diez Alonso
Spanish 'Trico' (sedge fly) by Tomas Gil

I've brought some back to add to my tying collection and will put a few 'mazos' (bunches of a dozen feathers) in the shop for a while to give you a chance to try them too!

Below: Pardo Corzuno Oscuro - finely flecked dark grey. 'Oscuro' (dark)

Pardo Corzuno Oscuro feathers

Below: Pardo Corzuno Rojizo - finely flecked reddish. 'Rojizo' (reddish)

Pardo Corzuno Rojizo feathers

Below: Pardo Crudo - flecked ivory. 'Crudo' (crude / basic) ..... Far from basic, a beautiful feather with a hint of badger perhaps.

Pardo Crudo feathers

Below: Indio Acerado - single coloured steel grey. 'Acerado' (steel grey)

Indio Acerado feathers

Fishing 'Spanish Style' with friends in Leon
Fishing the clear waters of Leon

Fishing with friends in Leon

I always enjoy the great hospitality that comes with a trip to Leon ..... and can't wait for my next visit to the Curueño Valley!

Below: Joaquin and Tomas preparing the 'Queimada'.

Tomas and Joaquin prepare the Queimada