RIO Products Intl., Inc. was the brainchild of Jim & Kitty Vincent. Jim, a lifelong fly fisher, outdoor writer, photographer and general fly fishing bum started the company in 1990. Prior to that Jim and Kitty spent their life touring North America in an Airstream trailer, from Key West to British Columbia, writing, taking photos and fishing wherever they found water. In those days there were no specialized tapers and Jim would cut up and epoxy-splice together pieces of fly line to get what he wanted.
In 1991 Jim and Kitty took their first 10 products to the annual fly tackle dealer show in Denver. These products included waterproof bass and hunting journals, water proof sticky labels and hand tied leaders. The following year RIO moved to Blackfoot, Idaho where Jim and Kitty set up a leader and tippet production facility, employing local people to cope with the increasing demand for hand tied leaders.
1993 saw RIO enter the knotless tapered leader and tippet market with, amongst other materials, a revolutionary new tippet material called 'Powerflex'. Powerflex was not the only new material RIO bought out in 1993, but to this day Powerflex has a reputation for reliability, strength and suppleness that cannot be beaten. In fact, since 2002 RIO leaders and tippet material has been the No.1, best selling material in fly shops throughout the world.
Jim and Kitty decided to enter the fly line market in 1994. Jim's line designs were initially manufactured to his specifications by Cortland, but various problems led Jim to the decision to build his own fly line manufacturing plant in Idaho Falls and in 1997 the first fly line rolled off the production line. In Jim's words the first fly lines that came off were "horrendous". They were lumpy, bumpy, sticky and had no durability, but over the next few months the manufacturing process was refined and slowly, but surely the quality of the lines started to get better.
Jim's plan was to hire good people that were passionate fly fishers. He felt that on-the-water fly fishing experience in his staff was essential for ideas, testing and continued development of fly fishing products. Jim said "We don't hire guys in white lab coats to design a better way to connect a fish to a fly line. The product development process has to incorporate the input of fly fishers, guides and captains: and the hours, days and years of standing in a river, wading on flats, surf casting or standing on the deck of a flats boat. This experience is essential and what I look for when I hire somebody." Today that policy still holds true and every department at RIO, from designing, to manufacturing, to coiling, to customer service and to marketing is staffed by passionate fly fishers. RIO even has fly fishing classes (free, and open to all employees) that share this passion to newcomers at the factory and ensures there will always be fly fishers at the heart of RIO.
When it comes to products, RIO's policy isn't just that a fly line should work (as other manufacturers believe), but to lead the way in fly line design and constantly research and build on the technology behind the fly line. RIO was the first company to bring out interchangeable tip lines, the first company to have density compensation on their sinking lines, the first company to have a durable running line, the first company to produce specialty spey casting tapers, the first company to have welded loops on the front end of the fly lines, the first company to produce a floating fly line with a tip that does not sink and the first company to make a fly line with two coatings at the same time (something RIO's leading competitor still says cannot be done!). Each of these innovations has been bought to the fly fisher by RIO first and these benefits are a direct result of RIO staying in touch with the demands of the fly fisher through its staff, advisory team and hundreds of guides and captains.
In 2004 RIO developed the revolutionary AgentX and SFT (Super Floatation Technology) processes. These processes all came about because of the discovery of a substance six times more buoyant than the standard microspheres used to make a fly line float. With this new chemistry, RIO was the first company to be able to solve the problem anglers had of their floating fly line tips sinking. The technology also meant an end to sinking running lines - particularly on floating saltwater lines and resulted in even more durable fly lines because of the reduction of those abrasive microspheres in the outer coating.
In November 2005 RIO was acquired by Far Bank Enterprises, a company that also owns Sage and Redington. This move ensures the long term growth of RIO - providing the necessary capital for investment in new machinery, better salaries to ensure that the essential knowledge base of its staff is not lost and an extensive R&D programme that will keep RIO at the forefront of technology and design for years to come.
In case you are wondering, Jim still consults for the new owners and travels the world fishing, coming up with new ideas and being a RIO ambassador. Meanwhile, the new president of RIO, Travis Campbell, (a passionate fly fisher of more than 18 years and one damn smart guy) looks to the future with great interest - a future where RIO continues to be staffed by enthusiastic fly fishers and continues to lead the fly fishing world in fly line design and technology.