Before learning how to catch fish--equipment use, line and rig choices, habitat location--reflect on what moved you to pursue fish in the first place. In essence it's the same as moves fish to feed or not and where: conditions of weather and water, or in other words planet earth beneath the atmosphere, but local. A desirous response to the environment set you out on whereabouts perhaps unknown.
For years voluminous material has been written on fishing conditions; almost all of it excludes personal intuition of conditions for more general observations, even if specifically pinned down by such toys as thermometers, barometers, and even wind gauges, as if these devices possess powers we don't.
I can only suggest to you frankly--get in touch with yourself. Split second choices on the water mean more than comparing outward observations to preconceived notions. And now I will be faithful to the post's title, which lured more of you to it by far than would have the word "intuition" in place of "observe." I will toe the line a little with the rest of the rule makers.
1. Low pressure is often too stable a system to incite much more action than a stable high pressure system might while lingering after initial cold front shock puts fish on hold. Approaching storms are usually best, and violent storm passages can stir terrific action but be deadly if lighting is involved. Surf fishermen who dare Nor'easters know more about this adventure than I have been privileged to participate.
The general rule is that rainy days are fishing days. And this general rule disappoints anglers perhaps more often than not.
2. Cold fronts tighten action down. Some fish might not feed. Some might only strike in reaction. But it often seems that one or two, if not more, will feed. You have to concentrate and usually fish deep into cover or in deep water. It's not a time for wild excitement as it is for taking satisfaction in beating odds that optimal fishing conditions--optimal water temperatures in late spring or early fall, for example, combined with a falling barometer and approaching storm or beginning of rain--cannot ever provide.
3. No season month, week, or day excludes possible catches. Every day, hour, and minute presents unique conditions. But if all you want is catch quantity--whether of weight or numbers--rather than catch quality, what are you fishing for? A fish is a living part of nature which ultimately escapes every measurement device we can approximate to it. You want just the figures? We judge them by limited eyesight.
4. Early and late is my favorite generality. But during summer, for example, I find that for 10 to 20 minutes or so, largemouth bass binge feed sometime around sunset. I never predict exactly when this happens--perhaps 10 minutes before sunset, perhaps 20 minutes after. But the topwater action sure flies in the face of "summer doldrums" and weather "too hot." Summer bass have high metabolic rates that need calories. But they binge feed and conserve calories by moving and chasing baitfish less throughout the day, which involves why plastic worms are a good choice for summer afternoons. But be ready for a shift in action or you might miss it and never realize it happened.
1. I love clear water because it conveys a feeling of energy, life, and presence. Much is written about stained water allowing shallower fish movements, and this is an ace-up-the-sleeve to write about, especially to believe in. But in the clear lakes I fish, I have no problem catching bass in 10 to 20 foot depths.
Low, clear, summer smallmouth bass streams may mean slightly spookier bass--and certainly mean selective trout in my experience--but smallmouths are lordly, pugnacious animals that will look you in the eye, then take your fly.
2. Muddy water impossible? Use a Colorado bladed spinnerbait to transmit directly to lateral lines.
3. Too high a temperature can kill any fish, especially trout and salmon. But it used to be believed in complete faith that largemouth bass hibernated during winters of the northern United States. Beliefs always satisfy need for ordering experience into explanations, and the willingness to forsake explanations and try something else may result in a catch--at some time or another some ice fisherman realized that largemouth hibernation was a myth.
4. Wind can make fish fickle unless accompanied by the sort of initial low pressure system that excites them. The general rule is that wind reduces light penetration, therefore means better fishing, but I usually find windy conditions earlier in spring and also summer to be less productive than calm, but I like wind in the fall because I usually do well for bass, pickerel, walleyes, and hybrid stripers. However, a moderate chop on a shallow eutrophic lake in May and June (post-spawn, at least female largemouths, as well as pickerel and/or pike) with plenty of sun can mean excellent spinnerbaiting, fish chasing forage in optimal temperatures striking sun-reflecting spinners savagely.
5.. Live bait can tell you whether oxygen is present in depths or not, and so can a meter.
Devices are fine so long as we don't forget they are created from what is within the creators. Anglers are practical minded innovators who may stand by observations, rather than by some hokey intuition, to the death. Every innovation requires exact deductions from theory built from observed experience and measurements. But what precedes observation? What actually moves the eye to look? If you become more aware of this response to conditions within you, then you learn you are on par with fish that also respond to conditions.