Today I'd like to talk about a slightly random subject for this blog: fishing. I believe that I have a somewhat strange relationship with this profession. I'm generally not interested enough in it to write about it, and I'm not even close to earning the Salty title (and not trying for it either), but four of my level eighties have their fishing skill maxed out and the three others are all working on getting to that point as well. People often tell me that I must be insane when I share this particular bit of information with them; I wonder why?
Interestingly enough my relationship with fishing didn't start out very well at all. I remember my little human paladin approaching Goldshire for the first time and immediately running into the local fishing trainer. I had read in the manual that fishing was a secondary profession so I figured that there was no harm in acquiring it. After asking in general chat where to find a fishing pole (since Mr Lee Brown is one of the few fishing-related NPCs that doesn't actually sell any fishing goodies himself and hasn't got a vendor next to him either) and successfully locating one at the local trade supplies vendor, I eventually gave the actual fishing a go. My biggest problem initially was figuring out how to actually use my fishing pole, because unlike with the other gathering professions there's nothing in the world to click on (I remember trying to click on the water so many times...) and unlike a mining pick or a skinning knife you actually have to equip the pole to use it. To this day I think that's something that's rather inconsistent and probably a bit of a deterrent to newbie fishermen. After some more inquiring in general chat I eventually managed to catch a couple of raw brilliant smallfish I believe... but I didn't persist for very long; after all there were more interesting things to learn and see.
I didn't do any fishing for a while after that, until I came across this quest in Redridge which asks you to acquire a couple of fish either by pulling them out of the lake yourself or taking them off the local murlocs. "Oh, I can fish," I thought to myself and started casting my line... except that almost every single time I seemed to have caught something, it got away. I was so confused and frustrated at the time, because again unlike the other gathering professions, fishing doesn't give you any kind of indication whether what you're trying to do is actually appropriate for your skill level. In fact, at the time I didn't even realise that lack of skill was my problem. I just thought that fishing required some insane reflexes to click on the bobber the instant it moved or else the fish got away. It shouldn't come as a surprise that I just resorted to the murloc-killing solution eventually.
When I rerolled as a night elf with two friends shortly afterwards, I pretty much treated fishing the same way as before. I trained the skill and got a couple of skillups early on, but I came into territory where I couldn't fish efficiently anymore way too soon (even with the slower levelling speed back then) and thus quickly gave up on it again. My friend was into reading guides before I even knew that people wrote them, so she made a point of keeping her fishing at the right level because it was useful, and I remember envying her ever so slightly as she stood there in Booty Bay actually catching something while I wasn't even allowed to cast my line. But fishing just wasn't that interesting!
The thing that brought the turnaround for me during BC was something shockingly simple: the introduction of the daily fishing quest from Old Man Barlo. Nothing to make something interesting like giving it an actual purpose in the game. I mean, I know that fishing was useful before, but it wasn't really obvious that fish was a great source of food, and anyway I wasn't raiding yet so I didn't even know that you were supposed to be buffed from eating. There's a big difference between some outside source telling me what I should do in the game because it's supposedly good, and actually seeing the effects for myself. I suspect that's also the reason why I'm so fond of gemming for socket bonuses even if the min-maxers frown upon it. Seeing that green text light up and tell me that I got an extra five spell power is just so much cooler than watching it stay greyed out and trying to content myself with the knowledge that I'm now naught-point-two percent more efficient according to some website.
But back to fishing. Having got into raiding myself by that point, I came to find that a lot of fish made for great buff food for a priest, and the fishing daily offered a great incentive to slowly increase my skill. Basically my problem when trying to level fishing in the past had often been that I just felt like I wasn't doing anything useful while standing around in the middle of nowhere, fishing up low-level fish just to get up skillups. The fishing daily however gave me a reason to work on it in small chunks at a time while also providing a tangible reward, even if the stuff I fished up beside the quest items was utterly useless. At first I started by just doing Crocolisks in the City whenever it came up (since it only requires a fishing skill of one), then I actually spent some time fishing up Deviate Fish in the Barrens to get my skill up high enough so that I could do the other fishing dailies as well. And from there it kind of snowballed as I naturally started to repeat the process by doing dailies on my alts once I had maxed out my main's skill.
In WOTLK Blizzard continued to make more changes that made fishing even more fascinating, such as the introduction of junk items that you fish up instead of just getting the "your fish has got away" message, allowing you to cast your line anywhere you want regardless of skill level, decreasing the cast time for each fish and the amount of catches needed to skill up, and adding another bunch of extra incentives such as the aforementioned achievement and a rare mount.
I'm actually not entirely sure where I'm going with this post. I think I just wanted to give Blizzard kudos for converting me to fishing when I really didn't find it all that interesting back when I first started playing. Supposedly they have more exciting changes planned for the profession in Cataclysm. Personally the only things that I'd like to see would be for them to bring it more in line with the other gathering professions mechanics-wise, as I already hinted above. If you don't have to equip a mining pick to mine or a skinning knife to skin, then you shouldn't have to equip a fishing pole to fish either. Along the same lines I'd love it if you could just right-click on any body of water to start fishing if you have the skill and a fishing pole in your bags. And there definitely needs to be some kind of indication of whether you're fishing in waters appropriate for your level. Sure, you can always just try and catch nothing but junk, but that's not massively helpful. Maybe some flavour text on the fishing pole that could change colour whenever you're near fishable water, using the same scale as the other skills (green for easy success, red for likely failure most of the time). Either way I'm looking forward to what they'll come up with.