I came across this pattern around ten years ago. I first discovered the James Wood Bucktail through a video series called Adventures In Fly Tying, produced by Joe Cornwall. I immediately liked the simplicity of the pattern, and I was already somewhat familiar with Pete Perinchief’s bonefish fly, The Horror, on which the James Wood Bucktail is based. It is my understanding that the pattern was developed by Harry Murray of Murrays Fly Shop in Edinburg, Virginia. If you are ever in the neighborhood, stop in, it's a pretty cool shop.
Harry Murray designed the James Wood Bucktail as an imitation of a sunfish. It is impressionistic impression at best, but the fish seem to think it does a pretty good job. He used it primarily for smallmouth bass that roam the large rivers in his neck of the woods. I initially started tying the fly for shad as it is very similar to the chenille bodied flies I tie for these fish. Over the years the bucktail was eliminated on my shad patterns because I noticed the fly continued to produce long after the wing had been chewed off. My shad flies are all simple two color chenille bodied flies anyway, so the bucktail seemed redundant.
I feel the wing is essential when using the fly for its intended purpose, bass and panfish. I have caught good numbers of bass on this fly, but it came into its own when scaled down in size to be used as a crappie pattern. After catching a few oversized crappie on size 2 & 4 flies, I started shrinking them down to size 6 and 8 and started catching more crappie. Reduce the fly even smaller in size, and it does a great job on bluegill and other panfish.
Sourcing the light blue chenille in small sizes has been my biggest problem. Fortunately, since the head is tied oversized by double wrapping the chenille on the hook shank, you can use a single layer of the larger stuff which you can find in most craft stores.
When tying this pattern, pay particular attention to the wing. It should be very sparse. I have experimented adding a little weight in the form of lead wire on the hook shank, but I prefer to fish this fly unweighted. I have also played around with different color combinations of chenille and bucktail, and they all caught fish. It is a great pattern to experiment with I encourage you to give it a try.