November 18, 2022
By Ross Purnell
Jim Vincent, the co-founder of RIO Products and a longtime contributor to Fly Fisherman magazine passed away in Idaho Falls, September 27, 2022. He was 73 years old.
Vincent and his wife Kitty founded RIO in 1990 and named the company after the Rio Colorado in Costa Rica. Previously, the couple were managers and fishing guides at many fishing lodges from Alaska to Isla de Pesca in Costa Rica and in Belize. Together they fished all over the world, in waters as diverse as British Columbia, the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, the Florida Keys Florida for tarpon and Norway.
For nearly a decade they lived in an Airstream trailer, traveling the U.S. and Canada. Vincent was a frequent contributor to Fly Fisherman in the 1980s and 1990s, with many memorable articles about steelhead and trout. He was frequently on the cover with photos taken by his wife Kitty Pearson-Vincent.
RIO Products in the beginning sold just leaders and tippet, and then got into the fly line manufacturing business. Vincent designed most of the original fly lines with the help of Marlin Roush. Their WindCutter lines and in particular their array of Spey products at the turn of the millennium changed the way we fly fish today.
A major turning point may have been the release of the video International Spey Casting, with Jim Vincent, Simon Gawesworth, and Leif Stavmo, which was filmed in 1998 and released in 1999 on VHS. Then in 2005, the DVD of Modern Spey Casting came out. Those two films introduced an entire generation of Americans to two-handed rods and taught them how to Spey cast.
Vincent hired Gawesworth full time in 2001, and Gawesworth was a fly line designer and worked in marketing at the company for the next 20-plus years.
“Jim Vincent was a big man, with a big heart, and an even bigger passion for the outdoors,” Gawesworth wrote upon hearing of his passing. “He was an avid archery hunter, a great outdoorsman, an entrepreneur, an outdoor writer, and above all, a passionate fly fisher. He enjoyed chasing permit and tarpon, steelhead and Atlantic salmon, but his big passion were the wily trout of the Henry’s Fork, particularly those on the Railroad Ranch section—but only if they were taking dry flies. Jim would sit for hours, waiting for a good trout to feed before he ever considered getting into the water, or making a cast. He had incredible patience when hunting trout and would frequently leave the river having never made a cast, simply because there were no fish rising.
“Jim Vincent was an impassioned entrepreneur in the fly-fishing world,” said Van Rollo, who was a RIO sales rep in the Rocky Mountain region from 1996-2017. “He had an incredible internal drive to be the best, to produce the finest products from a performance perspective. Jim was very competitive . . . he wanted to be #1 in every category he was involved in. He and his wife, Kitty, similarly attracted an ace internal team comprised of Zack Dalton, Wayne Peterson, Simon Gawesworth, Marlin Roush, John Harder, John Schultz, and Caroline Musselmen, and Jill Moore. He called this entire group the 'A Team.' It was so fun to be a part of such a quickly growing company. RIP my friend, and always know you made the fly-fishing world better permanently. Tight Lines forever!”
Vincent sold his company to Far Bank Enterprises in November of 2005. Far Bank is today the parent company of Sage, Redington, RIO Products, and Fly Water Travel. After the sale of RIO in 2005, Vincent spent rest of his life hunting and fly fishing, mostly for Atlantic salmon, trout on the Henry’s Fork (his great love), and for tarpon in the Florida Keys.
Vincent's many friends remember him fondly.
"Steelheading with Jim Vincent was fun,” said Vincent’s longtime friend and fishing partner Cliff Watts. “Learning from Jim was exceptional. Floating the Dean with Jim, Kitty, his eight-week old Brittany puppy, and his elk archery kit piled high in my raft, we were nicknamed 'the Beverly Steelbillies.' It was a blast enjoying his cooking, nomadic history, technical expertise, enthusiasm, and great sense of humor. I wish I could do it again. I will miss him."
“I was honored and blessed to count Jim as a friend, mentor, and fishing partner,” said Zack Dalton, who worked for RIO and later Far Bank for 23 years. “Jim’s dedication, product designs, and contributions to fly fishing and the outdoors cement his status as one of the sports all time legends. Jim’s creative influence truly improved the angling experience.”
“Clearly from the warm sentiments and remembrances pouring forth from the fly-fishing realm and beyond, Jim Vincent significantly touched and impacted many lives,” lifelong friends Sandy and Victor Colvard wrote. “Well before RIO, as vagabond fishing bums, photographers and writers, Jim and Kitty were our role models on to how to live life on your own terms. Above all else, Jim was a dear friend, a companion around the campfire, a comrade and mentor on streams and rivers, a magnanimous sharer of his expansive knowledge. His presence will remain in our hearts with fondness and gratitude.”
Ross Purnell is the editor and publisher of Fly Fisherman.