Legend has it that the Scottish king Robert the Bruce, having been defeated by the English and driven into exile, found himself hiding in a cave. And there he saw a spider trying to build a web and, for whatever reason, failing to do so. But the spider, to his credit, never gave up and just kept going until he got the job done. Inspired by the tenacious spider, Bruce thinks to himself that you can achieve anything if you really put your mind to it. He never looked back after that. Before you knew it he was triumphing over the English in the Battle of Bannockburn.

Inspiring stuff this may be but it is probably complete bullshit. The current version of the legend did not make itself known until over 500 years later when it was published by Sir Walter Scott. And even then there are doubts if the spider story related to Bruce or somebody else.

Happily, I am in a position to offer a similarly uplifting tale premised on a human being inspired by an invertebrate. Don´t get your hopes up too much.  There are no battles or dragons or anything . In fact it is a pretty lame story. But at least it is true!

Here it is:

Once upon a time there was a very fine chap sitting outside on his terrace. Like Rapunzel, before she finally let down her hair, he was trapped. In his case it was by a nasty virus that kept pretty much everyone in the land confined to their homes. But our hero was making the best of things and decided to assemble his vice on an outside table and use the remaining light of the evening to tie up his first fly since the his period of incarceration had begun.

Fortified by a glass of white wine, he was soon ready to get started. It was to be a sedge and he had it in mind to wittily christen his thing “the corona caddis”. But then he looked into his glass  and what should he see in there but a little fly struggling in the surface film! (There were two actually but one was already a goner). Without a moment´s hesitation, he rescued the struggling insect and blew it off his finger to which the surface tension of the wine had attached it. The fly presumably was pretty pissed but otherwise okay. After a good night sleep and a a couple of paracetamols in the morning it should be right as rain.

I ought to point out that the hero of this story, as you are likely to suspect, is called Paul. I need to point this out so that you can appreciate that what followed was a moment just like the one experienced by that other, much more worthy Paul on the road to Damascus.

Maybe what was needed was a radical rethink? What if, inspired by the struggles of the little fly he should tie up, instead of the sedge, a little dry that would interact with the surface film in an alluring way just like the bug in his wine had done? That fly waving his arms around was surely some kind of a sign?

And so, fortified with a couple of gulps of white wine (no point in throwing it away!) he set to work and concocted a couple of flies that were built of foam and, for wings, some kind of buoyant white packaging material he found somewhere. These two little artificial flies would, he hoped, float well and engage meaningfully with the meniscus. And just maybe some dumb fish might think they look realistic enough to accept.

Wow! What a tale!! And it is all true! Every word of it!

As proof here are the flies he whipped up:

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“El primero” (looking at him now I realise he needs a bit of a haircut)

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El segundo

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The inspiration behind a legend! You can see the little fly bottom right before he was let go and told to sleep it off.